OLD MASTER PAINTINGS
Pietro Locatelli c.1634 -1710
St. Lawrence Presenting his Treasures to the Emperor
Oil on canvas 13 x 26 inches
Provenance: Private collection, Dublin, through family descent
Price on application: Email 'art at mpfa.ie'
St Lawrence was one of seven deacons of the early church. The other six were
captured by the Emperor Valerian on August 6th in the year 258 and put to
death. The oppression of the Church was very severe. A great many Christians
fled Rome and most of those who remained were slaughtered. As Vatican
librarian and archivist, Lawrence was thought by the Emperor to have a list
of all the members of the Church, and the locations of hidden hoards of
gold. Captured by the soldiers of the Emperor, he was ordered to produce all
the wealth of the Church and given only two days to bring the treasure to
the imperial palace. In defiance, Lawrence gathered up the diseased, the
orphaned and the crippled on the appointed day, accompanied them to the
palace, and presented them to the Emperor as his treasures.
According to tradition, for his impudence, Lawrence was slowly roasted on a
grill on the site of the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Rome, in the expectation
that he would publicly renounce his religion and reveal the names of the
wealthy Christians. He is usually represented holding a gridiron to
memorialise his grisly martyrdom and is now somewhat gruesomely regarded as
the patron saint of cooks. Legend claims that he was so willing to embrace
Christ in heaven, he was happy to bear the pain of the fire and found the
strength to request of his executioners: “Turn me over; I am done on this
side.” Much of this may be no more than popular myth as proper historical
record suggests that he was beheaded rather than roasted. Even so, there is
a strong belief that he showed great courage and dignity in facing his
persecutors, which gained great respect for his religious belief among the
Romans. After his death, there was widespread conversion to Christianity.
His feast day is celebrated on the 10th of August.
His work is extremely rare on the market and only two other oils are
recorded, one a mountainous landscape and the other, Giuseppe si rivela
ai fratelli, a large oil which is not far removed from the present work
in manner and motif. Included amongst the four drawings which have surfaced
are a Head of a Prelate in the manner of Raphael and a fine squared drawing
of the Rosary Madonna. Brian Koetser has identified the current painting as
a modello for the larger canvas in the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Tivoli.
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