Milan? 1447 /1487 – Milan or Oggiono 1524
[San Rocco] c.1520
oil on wood panel
60.0 (h) x 27.6 (w) cm Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
Legacy of Guglielmo Lochis 1866
Saint Roch is one of two surviving side panels from a small triptych by Marco d’Oggiono, a follower of Leonardo da Vinci. The left-hand side panel, a related figure of Saint Sebastian of the same dimensions and a similar composition, is now in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan. The lost central panel of the altarpiece was probably an image of the Madonna and Child. The triptych is usually dated to the second decade of the sixteenth century; and as both saints were invoked for protection against the plague this would place the altarpiece as a commission at a time of plague and the war in Lombardy. These saints of pestilence are sweet and pietistic, in the sentimental way that Marco interpreted Leonardo’s style.
Saint Roch is portrayed casually standing on rocky ground with a deep valley perspective and blue mountains in the distance. One of his stockings has been pulled down to reveal the sign of the plague on the inner thigh of his right leg.
From the fourteenth century the cult of Saint Roch (1295–1327) was widespread. He is said to have distributed his inheritance among the poor to become a mendicant pilgrim. He left his home in Montpellier, France, to walk into plague-stricken Italy where he cured the sick with the sign of the Cross. He succumbed to the pestilence himself, but recovered and returned to France where he died in prison, having been mistaken for a spy in his pilgrim’s clothes. His relics are believed to be housed at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, where Jacopo Tintoretto’s Saint Roch in Glory 1564 is a centrepiece among his sensational Mannerist paintings.
The Saint Sebastian panel is the traditional image of the saint with arrows piercing his body. He appears unconcerned, languidly leaning against a tree. According to his legend Saint Sebastian survived being shot with arrows, but was later beaten to death (about the year 288) during the time of Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. His association with the plague stems from an episode in The golden legend, which tells of a great pestilence that afflicted the Lombards in the time of ‘King Gumburt’, but was miraculously stopped after the erection of an altar to Saint Sebastian in the Church of Saint Peter in Pavia.
Both panels are strongly reminiscent of Leonardo’s style, even though anatomical complexities are not Marco’s strength. The saints have melancholy expressions, they appear androgynous, almost feminine, and the landscape with an aerial perspective is all but monochrome. The first location of the tryptych is hard to ascertain, although a church in Bergamo or the surrounding countryside has been suggested.
 Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519).
The Saint Sebastian panel was formerly in the Petrobelli collection, Italy. See Mauro Natale, Museo Poldi Pezzoli. Dipinti, Milan: Mondadori Electa, 1982, cat. 41, p. 91; Janice Shell, ‘Marco d’Oggiono’, in I leonardeschi. L’eredità di Leonardo in Lombardia, Milan: Skira, 1998, pp. 163–78.
 Jacopo Tintoretto (1582–1587).
 The golden legend (c.1260) is a popular Medieval compilation of the lives
of Christian saints by Jacobus de Voragine (c.1229–1298).
 Francesco Rossi, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo. Catalogo dei dipinti, Bergamo: Grafica Gutenberg Editrice, 1979, p. 98.