The first time I visited Italy was back in 2015, and Milan was a big part of this experience, and I still remember my surprise when I saw the Duomo for the first time. Inside, everything was even more magical since I didn’t imagine how large it would be.
But the main piece that caught my attention was this insane looking sculpture located between the Presentation altar and the one devoted to St Agnes. There, standing high on a pedestal stands one of the twelve apostles of Christ. Executed for his Christian faith, St Bartholomew is represented here as he died.
According to legends, the saint, also known as Bartholomew, the Apostle, was skinned alive and beheaded. He is often represented like that but not in the way that Marco d’Agrate presented him here. Here, he looks like a man carrying a drape around his shoulders and his body. But that is his skin.
Until the XIII century, St Bartholomew was portrayed holding a knife and a book as a way to present the martyrdom he suffered. It was only in the Renaissance that the saint started being represented with his own skin removed from his flesh. The work of Marco d’Agrate doesn’t focus on the faith or the martyrdom of the saint. His focus here is another sphere of interest: the study of human anatomy.
The statue of St Bartholomew Flayed inside the Duomo di Milano is a careful study of muscles and the human body’s structure. Some might call it an artist exercise.
For a long time, the statue of St Bartholomew Flayed stood outside the Duomo di Milano. It was only in 1664 that the statue was moved inside as a place more suitable for the admiration of such a beautiful piece of art.
After almost 500 years later, the St. Bartholomew Flayed still marvel at those who come by the cathedral. This is a continuous surprise to visitors since it isn’t a sight that we often see.
One exciting thing about the statue, besides its anatomy, is the short inscription at the foot of the figure. There it says Non me Praxiteles, sed Marcus finxit Agrates, referring to the fear that Marco d’Agrate had of having his work confused with Praxiteles, who was one of the most talented sculptors in Ancient Greece.