Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, 2007



Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain
3216 x 1558 x 1558 mm | 126.6 x 61.3 x 61.3 in
Glass, painted stainless steel, silicone, arrows, crossbow bolts, stainless steel cable and clamps, stainless steel carabiner, bullock and formaldehyde solution
Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


Solo Exhibition - 2008
MCA Denver, Denver, United States
Solo Exhibition - 2007
The Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas, United States
Solo Exhibition - 2007
White Cube, Hoxton Square and Mason’s Yard, London, United Kingdom


‘Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain’ is a work from Hirst’s ‘Natural History’ series that the artist initially made sketches for in 2002, before it was fabricated for ‘Beyond Belief’ – his major exhibition at White Cube, London, in 2007.

Explaining that his “belief in art is a completely religious belief”, Hirst has frequently cited the importance of his exposure to Catholic images and teachings as a child. The martyr Saint Sebastian – portrayed within the Christian iconographic tradition as a youthful man bound and shot with arrows – is here instead depicted as a young bull, pierced with crossbow bolts, arrows and knives. Regarding his choice of a bullock as the martyred saint, Hirst explains: “It’s kind of odd to take meat and give it back a personality in some way or make it a metaphorical carrier or something like that. People don’t like faces on meat. But also for it to be dead in a tragic way. For you to have some sort of understanding or to feel its pain or tragedy.”[1]

In the same year as this work was made, Hirst created a similar piece titled ‘Saint Sebastian, Purified’, using a white bullock.

[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘An Interview’, Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Beyond Belief’ (Other Criteria/White Cube, 2008), 34