Saint Charalambos, Bishop of Magnesia who died as a martyr during the reign of Septimius Severus, in 202 or 203, is holding the devil, a symbol of illness and death, by his hair.

He is wearing a purple chasuble, a colour associated with martyrdom, and brandishing an Episcopal cross which he is using to strike the hideous creature, chained by his feet and hands. The saint, depicted with fine features and beard, and with delicate folds in his garment from which an ornate stole emerges at the bottom, contrasts with the ugliness of the devil, represented as a hybrid monster with green skin, pointed wolfish ears amidst an untidy mane of hair, frightening teeth and nails and fingers red with blood.

The supremacy of the forces of good over the forces of evil is depicted by the imposing size of the saint and his central position, contrasting with the smallness of the monster, relegated to the left side of the picture. The saint is poised in action, as shown by his lifted arm and bent legs, as if ready to jump. The absence of a gold background and the natural pose give the impression of a common style, but the icon is in reality refined in its details, subtlety of colour and strength of suggestion. The pointillism on the ground is evocative of the Ionian school.

The small size of the object suggests that it was a domestic icon, whose theme indicates a protective role. Charalambos was considered as a protector of men and beasts against the plague and contagious diseases, because of a miracle he accomplished during his martyrdom.

R. Z.

City of Paris municipal collection's website

City of Paris municipal collection's website

The collections portal can be used to search the collections of Paris’s 14 municipal museums (approximately 336,000 works, including 43,000 belonging to the Petit Palais).

It is also possible to download around 12,000 images of the museum’s works free of charge.

Access the Museums of the City of Paris collections portal
Autre base documentaire

Extern databases

Discover a selection of databases online presenting works from the Petit Palais or documents concerning the history of the museum.