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Sculpture depicts the suffering of Apostle Bartholomew

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This is one of the most haunting sculptures ever produced. It depicts Saint Bartholomew, one of Christ’s twelve apostles, who brought Christianity to India and Armenia in the 1st century.

Like many Christian martyrs, he suffered an excruciating demise. A common account tells that he was skinned alive and then beheaded, in punishment for converting the king of Armenia to the faith.

This terrifying sculpture piece is by Renaissance artist Marco d’Agrate. It’s a rare example of an écorché (a figure showing the muscles of the body without skin) in sculpture, produced in exquisite detail from a block of marble in 1562.

The “cloak” you see draped over the apostle’s shoulder is not clothing but his own skin. Bartholomew wears it proudly, clutching the knife that flayed him. Despite his torment he stands defiant and stern in expression, quite literally wearing his own suffering.

According to accounts, Bartholomew continued preaching to a rapt audience after his executors had flayed him. The contrapposto stance and determined glare make an interesting parallel to Michelangelo’s “David”. But d’Agrate went one further – the subject here is (literally) stripped bare with remarkable anatomical precision, the result of d’Agrate’s careful study of the human body. Every vein, muscle and tendon is represented in minute detail. The unique sculpture has lived at Milan Cathedral for nearly five centuries, reminding visitors of the power of enduring faith in the face of religious persecution.

–CultureCritic @Culture_Crit | Twitter

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