The Torture of Saint Cassian
The Torture of Saint Cassian
The Torture of Saint Cassian
The Torture of Saint Cassian
The Torture of Saint Cassian
The Torture of Saint Cassian

A student of Paul Troger
1760

Material
Oil paint

Collection
Dom Museum Wien

Inv.Nr.
I/24

Oil paint
Oil painting
Baroque

On view

Query
Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
Next Object >


The Torture of Saint Cassian

A follower of Paul Troger painted this very dramatic scene of Saint Cassian being killed by his pen-wielding students.

What a drama this late Baroque work unfolds! A man is tortured to death—by children resembling the chubby-cheeked cherubs so popular in the artist’s era. The painting describes the torture of Saint Cassian of Imola who, as a schoolmaster, spread the Gospel in early Christian times. After he had been denounced by his pupils’ parents, he was martyred by his students who stabbed him with their iron styli which they used to mark their wax writing tablets in class.

Cassian is rendered nearly unclothed diagonally against a building from antiquity, spread like a sail, his arms and legs lashed to small pegs and a column with ropes. His students tear into him with their torture instruments from all sides. A mother is spurring them on. She points at Cassian’s heart, while a boy delivers the death-blow to him like a fencer. Behind the white-bearded saint’s head, a child raises a tablet, getting ready to hit him. The tablet as well as the prostrate saint’s cross-like posture and the stab into his chest evoke Christ’s crucifixion. The outlines of the ancient statue of a god are visible in the left foreground with a bowl, a knife, and a sacrificial lamb ready to use in front of it. Is it Cassian the artist refers to with the sacrifice for the Gods he wanted to bring down? Childlike angels awaiting the saint with a palm frond as the attribute of martyrs and the crown of eternal life hover peacefully above the worldly drama.

Paul Troger’s (1698–1762) design was one the last major works of the aging artist. As a teacher at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Art, he had numerous students and influenced the development of painting until around the middle of the eighteenth century when Franz Anton Maulbertsch’s (1724–1796) works were increasingly more in demand than his and those of his workshop. Could it be that Troger also depicted his “annihilation” by a following generation in this meticulous representation of human suffering?