Dirk Bouts

The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus

Besides The Last Supper, The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus is one of Dirk Bouts’ two masterpieces that are still in their original locations. The triptych was probably commissioned for the chapel in Saint Peter’s Church in approximately 1460, and that is where it can still be seen today. 

The three saints depicted in the triptych are Jerome, Bernard, and Erasmus. The central panel shows the martyrdom of Saint Erasmus. He lies on a wooden plank with his hands and feet shackled. The two executioners on either side of Erasmus are pulling out his intestines with a winch. On the left panel, we see Saint Jerome, and on the right, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

The most striking element is the face of Erasmus, who seems completely calm despite suffering agonising torture. This is another typical example of the restraint that characterizes Bouts’ style.