Object type



St Adrian


Master of the Beyghem Altarpiece attributed to




circa 1500-1530


oil on panel


framed: 503 mm x 385 mm x 38 mm; unframed: 310 mm x 232 mm


Legend states that St Adrian was a Roman officer who became a Christian and was imprisoned and executed because of this in about 304 AD. His wife Natalia was also a Christian and visited him in prison disguised in boy’s clothing. Adrian is the patron saint of soldiers and butchers.

The anvil shown to the left of St Adrian refers to the manner of his death – his limbs were crushed on an anvil before his head and hands were cut off. The lion at the saint’s feet is a reference to his courage. The relief sculptures in the background probably refer to contemporary events in 16th century Europe, but the crowns prominent in both are perhaps visual hints of the heavenly martyr’s crown awarded to the saint on his death.

This is a painting in the rather theatrical 16th century style known as ‘Mannerist’. St Adrian’s fancy costume, his balletic pose and the fantastic architectural backdrop are hallmarks of this fashionable offshoot of more traditionally realistic Renaissance art which is associated with many artists, both in Italy and – via Italian influence – Northern Europe. It is noticeable here that St Adrian has a less than classically beautiful face; perhaps this is a portrait of the yet unknown man who commissioned the work, and his Christian name may well have been Adrian.

Credit Line/Donor

Archibald McLellan Collection, purchased, 1856

ID Number



In storage

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