More than any of the works we have examined so far, this last painting in our opening series reminds us of Caravaggio. A Caravaggio acquainted with Vermeer! For as Saint Irene appears here - the inflexibly straight line of her bodice, the beauty of her larger-than-life forehead - she is somehow reminiscent of the fascinating, magic world of that Delft master.
Five figures are portrayed full-length in this composition, which is vaster in scope than the rest of his paintings. This staging in particular again shows traces of Caravaggio, especially his burial scene.
Georges de La Tour avoids the raw realism his subject matter invites. It is with the sobriety of a Zurburan, and the sense of lighting of a Rembrandt, that he calls our attention to the drama being played out here: a single arrow, a single drop of blood. With, in addition, a shadow such as on a sundial, as if to underscore the inexorable path of fate.
Before bringing this opening section on diversity, comparisons, and confusion to a close, a few pertinent comments remain to be made. For instance, it is important to know that La Tour used the same subjects more than once; thus there exist two almost identical versions of Saint Sebastian. The present version hails from the parish church of Bois-Anzeray (Eure, NW Fr), and was acquired by the Louvre in 1981. The second version, also considered authentic, is in the possession of Berlin's Staatliche Museen.
Such multiple versions, together with the lack of dating information, make it impossible to set up a definite chronology. Stylistic and thematic studies, radiographs, and chemical analyses can provide indications but not certainties. Therefore we continue our tour of this artist's oeuvre without paying heed to such indications, allowing ourselves to be guided by other considerations.