Antique Saint Sebastian, Early Martyr, Santos from Central America, No. 2

Sir Raffles Art & History is Charles Mandel’s collection of antique Santos and ethnographic collectibles, mostly carved wood. See current selection on Etsy:

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This is a large, 24″ tall carved wood depiction of St. Sebastian. It was produced in Central America in the 19th century. The saint is in his traditional pose, tied to a tree and with arrows once embedded in his flesh.

Condition: The arrows that once pierced his body are missing. There are some losses to the polychrome and it appears to have been painted more than once. The right foot is loose but can be shored up if desired.

Comments: Santos carvings of St. Sebastian, while fairly uncommon, are quite popular due to the striking imagery and his personal story. He is sometimes known as the saint that was martyred twice as he managed to survive the ordeal depicted in this image. He was later clubbed to death by agents of the Emperor Diocletian. He is called upon for intercession by scholars, athletes, soldiers and those seeking reprieve from serious pestilence. He is credited with saving Rome from an outbreak of plaque in 680AD.

While I purchased this piece from England, it is almost certainly of Central American origin. It was described to me as from the 1600’s but I am not certain about that. I tend to think that it dates from the 1700’s. One thing is interesting about santo carvings of St. Sebastian: European versions almost always have a brown or black tree; ones from the Americas normally have green trees (local color of regeneration). This piece makes a very fine display and is of a very good size.

Whatever the culture, there can be no more important art than that used as an aid for communicating with the divine. I have always found devotional artifacts fascinating to collect; there is no better way to connect with a past culture than through the objects that were important to it. Collecting santos figures is particularly gratifying. The subject, the style and the methods of production combine to tell the tale of what the individuals in that culture valued.


I have been collecting artifacts and religious objects for many years, specializing in Asian and European vintage carvings. Don’t hesitate to ask about other stock that I might have that is not listed here.



Materials: wood,polychrome,twine

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