The Statue of Saint Bartholomew at Duomo di Milano

The Statue of Saint Bartholomew is a magnificent marble sculpture in the Duomo di Milano, the cathedral of Milan, Italy.

Created by Marco d’Agrate between 1562 and 1565, this stunning statue depicts Saint Bartholomew at the moment of his martyrdom.

It stands nearly 13 feet tall and has extraordinary virtuosic realism and emotive intensity.

This article shares all information about the Statue of Saint Bartholomew. 

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Background and History of the Statue of Saint Bartholomew

The Renaissance is a period of cultural and intellectual revival spanning from the 14th to the 17th centuries.

This time, it witnessed a surge in artistic innovation and a renewed appreciation for classical ideals. 

Sculptors, painters and architects drew inspiration from ancient art, incorporating elements of realism, anatomy and perspective into their creations. 

The Statue embodies this Renaissance spirit, showcasing an understanding of human anatomy, a mastery of sculpting and a deep reverence for religious iconography.

The sculpture shows Saint Bartholomew clutching the knife of his own flaying in one hand, with his own limply drooping skin draped over the other arm. 

Despite the horrific violence enacted on his body, the saint’s face is serene, gazing heavenward with faith and transcendence. 

This statue compares earthly torture and divine ecstasy and, makes it one of the most striking aspects of the sculpture.

Key Features of the Statue of Saint Bartholomew

The Statue of Saint Bartholomew stands in the Duomo near the altar dedicated to the saint. 

As viewers approach, they are met with his towering, skinless figure standing contradictorily tall and graceful despite his flaying. 

The effect is both beautiful in its hyper-realism but also genuinely disturbing.

The peel of empty skin that Bartholomew holds is notably accurate, complete with eerily realistic veins and pores. 

It snakes around his arm with a sense of weight and organic movement, cascading downwards.

Bartholomew’s muscular torso and arms are tensed, with clear indications of the strain and anguish of his ordeal. 

Yet his face tells a different story of transcendence and release. 

His peaceful features gaze directly at God, meeting torture with faith.

Realism of the statue 

The level of gruesome realism achieved in the statue was unprecedented for the religious art of 16th-century Italy. 

Marco d’Agrate was inspired by the era’s interest in human anatomy, as seen in the flourishing of scientific study, autopsy and illustration. 

He worked closely with anatomists in Milan to accurately depict the saint’s flayed body, fusing medical realism with mystical spirituality.

As one of the earliest freestanding marble nudes of its size since antiquity, the technical excellence of the sculpture was itself seen as miraculous. 

The way denigrate captures the organic texture and movement of human flesh showcases the Renaissance in naturalistic sculpture.

Symbolism of the Statue

The cathedral’s setting only amplifies the striking comparison between heavenly and earthly realms. 

The fall of the flayed skin, the tension of Bartholomew’s body and the tilt of his head guide the viewer’s eyes upwards, mirroring the saint’s gaze toward the heavens. 

We travel visually through earthly suffering into divine revelation.

Significance of the Statue of Saint Bartholomew at Duomo di Milano

The Statue of Saint Bartholomew contributed significantly to Milan’s importance as a center of artistry and innovation in the late Renaissance. 

Its potent religious imagery made it hugely influential across Counter-Reformation art.

As one of the masterworks of 16th-century European art, the statue encapsulates the era’s intensely dual fascinations with earthly naturalism and mystical transcendence. 

Marco d’Agrate pioneered a shocking level of anatomical realism to portray the extremes of human suffering fused with divine revelation. 

The contrast creates an almost surreal composition with ongoing power to disturb, impress and inspire.

Legacy of the statue

Nearly five hundred years after its creation, the Statue of Saint Bartholomew still stuns visitors to Milan’s cathedral today. 

Its towering, flayed figure represents the technical melding of renaissance disciplines – religion, science and artistry that characterize Marco d’Agrate’s seminal masterpiece. 

It remains an unforgettable rendering of the extremes of human experience – both bodily and spiritual – captured in stone.

Featured Image : View of old Gothic architecture and art. Stock photos by Vecteezy

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