The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian: A Physical Utopia for Reconstructing the Body in Early Modernism

Iulia MICU


The discourses of early Modernism focus on reconstructing the body through key-images, while those of the late Modernism focus on re-membering the body using memory. This study examines the mechanisms of healing and perceiving the body in the Western world, by analyzing the image of the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian as it is represented in literature, arts and the visual culture. At the beginning of the 20th Century the image of Saint Sebastian became an emblem both for the reconstruction and for the Modernity’s lack of will (see the Great Depression in early 1930s), as well as the subject of loss and retrieval, of degradation and salvation. Therefore it became a new and reprehensible form of erotic desire. The iconic symbol of Saint Sebastian springs out of beauty, aesthetics and pleasure and was one of the main motifs in early Modernist artistic production.

Keywords: physical utopia, imaginary, Saint Sebastian, Modernism, morbidezza.