ALLEMAGNE DU SUD DÉBUT DU XVIe SIÈCLE
Sculpture en ronde bosse
Bois de tilleul
H. 142 cm, L. 41 cm, P. 26 cm
Louis Réau, Iconographie de l'Art Chrétien, III/3, PUF, Paris, 1959, pp.1155-1161.
Jacques de Voragine, La Légende dorée, Flammarion, Paris, 1967.
Tardy, Dictionnaire des thèmes et décors, E. Tardy, Paris, 1957
In the popular belief of the late Middle Ages, Saint Roch is one of the intercessor saints invoked against epidemics, especially the plague, and for this reason often associated with Saint Sebastian, another great protector of the sick. His cult did not spread until the 15th century. Born in Montpellier in the 14th century, Roch was the son of a rich merchant of the city. Having decided to become a hermit, he spent most of his life on pilgrimage. He stayed three years in Rome from 1368 to 1371. It was on his way back home that he was struck by the plague, endemic in Europe after the dramatic epidemic of 1348. In order not to spread the plague further along his route, the saint retired to the woods. Miraculously, the dog of a neighbouring lord brings him a loaf of bread every day and an angel comes down from heaven to heal him. Thus cured, he returns to Montpellier, or to Lombardy to cure the plague, according to another legend.
Saint Roch is one of the most easily recognizable saints in Christian iconography. His pilgrim called Sarrochino with his traditional accessories: bumblebee, gourd and bread-baker, could make him mistaken for St. James or St. Sebald; but he is the only pilgrim who discovers a pestilential bubble on his thigh, which is bandaged by an angel and fed by a dog bringing him bread in his mouth. The bubo, the angel and the feeding dog are the distinctive attributes of the patron saint of Montpellier and Venice.
The angel that God is said to have sent to Saint Roch in the forest of Piacenza to heal and comfort him appears for the first time in 1550 in an engraving adorning the frontispiece of his biography.
Saint Roch has often been represented in isolation. Here, dressed in a cape covering his tunic and the traditional pilgrim's hat, he is accompanied by the angel kneeling beside him. These figures are enhanced by the quality of the grain of the honey-coloured lime wood.
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