The image of St Andrew is somewhat less familiar to me then that of England's Patron saint so I thought that I would take today to remind myself of his history and how artist have painted him.
In this characteristically dramatic work by Caravaggio we see St Andrew on the cross. At his feet dressed in highly reflective armor which distinguishes him from the rest of the characters is the Roman Proconsul Aegeas. After St Andrew had suffered for two days on the cross, from which he preached to the gathered masses, it was Aegeas that ordered he be cut down. However, when his soldiers went to remove him they were struck with paralysis rendering them incapable of doing so. Caravaggio has chosen this dramatic moment for his painting and we see the soldier frozen on the left hand side incapable of untying the martyred saint.
This has given the artist the opportunity to really play with the anatomy of the figure, he has left half of the back on show in order to show us the locked and tense muscles in the shoulder blade giving us this impression of a sudden spasm. If we look at the figures legs we can also see that both knees are strangely bend as if the strength has gone out of them and the man has been rendered powerless to move.
This slightly more serene painting is by El Greco. Unlike Caravaggio El Greco has painted the figure of St Andrew simply holding the cross in order that we may identify him with one hand raised in a gesture of blessing. You may have noticed that in Caravaggio's painting St Andrew is shown on an upright Latin cross while here El Greco shows him holding a diagonal cross. In images from the 17th Century and onward he is usually painted with the diagonal cross which of course has become the Saltire cross on the Scottish flag. In Caravaggio's painting he was possibly influenced by earlier 16th Century beliefs that he had been crucified on a Latin cross. These two works are believed to have been painted only 10 years apart but it marks a significant shift in the artists iconography.
I found this image on the wonderful BBC Your Paintings resource. Painted by the Italian artist Carlo Dolci and acquired by the Birmingham Museums Trust from the prestigious gallery Tomas Agnew and Sons who deal in Old Master paintings.
It is a very busy painting which seems to have a more narrative function. Again we are shown the Roman proconsul on the right overseeing the erection of the cross. Dolci has also included more prominently the crowds of people who had come to observe St Andrews crucifixion and many of whom he will convert to Christianity in his two days on the cross. You can see them between the ankles of the gentleman holding one of the boughs of wood and wearing a rather fabulous hat.
I just had to include this work because of the splendid Scottish blue that St Andrew is wearing.
Happy St Andrew's Day
To read more about St Andrew then do click here to read A History of St Andrew written by Michael Turnbull on the Scotland.org site.