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Pietro Locatelli c.1634 -1710

Photograph of a paintnig by Pietro Locatelli

St. Lawrence Presenting his Treasures to the Emperor

Oil on canvas 13 x 26 inches
Provenance: Private collection, Dublin, through family descent

Price on application: Email 'art at'

St Lawrence was one of seven deacons of the early church. The other six were captured by the Emperor Valerian on August 6th in the year 258 and put to death. The oppression of the Church was very severe. A great many Christians fled Rome and most of those who remained were slaughtered. As Vatican librarian and archivist, Lawrence was thought by the Emperor to have a list of all the members of the Church, and the locations of hidden hoards of gold. Captured by the soldiers of the Emperor, he was ordered to produce all the wealth of the Church and given only two days to bring the treasure to the imperial palace. In defiance, Lawrence gathered up the diseased, the orphaned and the crippled on the appointed day, accompanied them to the palace, and presented them to the Emperor as his treasures.

According to tradition, for his impudence, Lawrence was slowly roasted on a grill on the site of the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Rome, in the expectation that he would publicly renounce his religion and reveal the names of the wealthy Christians. He is usually represented holding a gridiron to memorialise his grisly martyrdom and is now somewhat gruesomely regarded as the patron saint of cooks. Legend claims that he was so willing to embrace Christ in heaven, he was happy to bear the pain of the fire and found the strength to request of his executioners: “Turn me over; I am done on this side.” Much of this may be no more than popular myth as proper historical record suggests that he was beheaded rather than roasted. Even so, there is a strong belief that he showed great courage and dignity in facing his persecutors, which gained great respect for his religious belief among the Romans. After his death, there was widespread conversion to Christianity. His feast day is celebrated on the 10th of August.

His work is extremely rare on the market and only two other oils are recorded, one a mountainous landscape and the other, Giuseppe si rivela ai fratelli, a large oil which is not far removed from the present work in manner and motif. Included amongst the four drawings which have surfaced are a Head of a Prelate in the manner of Raphael and a fine squared drawing of the Rosary Madonna. Brian Koetser has identified the current painting as a modello for the larger canvas in the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Tivoli.

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