Author: N / A
Created: mid-19th century.
Material / technique: oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 123x91 cm.
St Barbara is a martyr who lived in the first century in Asia Minor. She was the daughter of a wealthy man called Dioskorus. In order to protect his beautiful girl from admirers her father built a house for her in the shape of a tower. Barbara studied the writings of Origen and became acquainted with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. When her father left on a trip, she was baptised and took a vow of chastity. For the sake of the Christian faith, she asked to write a cross on the wall and to make a third window in the tower in honour of the Holy Trinity. Her pagan father was enraged about this and wanted to behead her with his own sword, but miraculously the wall of the tower opened and Barbara managed to escape to the mountains. A shepherd reported her and her father handed her over to the Roman authorities. The judge ordered the girl to cross the village naked – the most humiliating punishment at the time. On the day the punishment was to be carried out, a thick fog surrounded her body and saved her from ridicule. Barbara was brutally tortured, but her wounds healed miraculously. When her father finally beheaded her, he was struck by lightning.
Barbara is depicted standing (by the tower), holding a chalice with the Host in her right hand and a sword and a palm branch in her left hand, symbolising the instrument of her beheading or her martyrdom. She wears a crown and an ornate long tunic. In art works she is depicted with an ermine-padded cape indicating her noble origin, but barefoot.
... he was taken with displeasure: he ordered that she be tied up naked and that her sides be torn with sharp metal prongs, her wounds be scorched with hot metal, and her head with hammers. The saint bore it all because of Christ, raised her eyes to the skies in suffering and called the Lord not to abandon her. Juliana standing by her side gave the saint strength and cared for her. Seeing this, Martianus cut off their breasts and paraded them naked through the town. Suffering the shame they were happy that they would earn greater mercy in heaven. In the end he ordered that both of them be beheaded. They went to their execution happy in the hope of seeing their Saviour soon.
Cruel Dioskorus was the executioner of his own child, because he himself beheaded her. (Motiejus Valančius, „Žyvatai šventųjų“, Raštai 2, 2006, p. 49–51)
Reference: "The Lithuanian art collection of Jaunius Gumbis". Museum and Collector - 6. Vilnius: National Museum of Lithuania, 2016, P. 256.
Exhibition: Exhibition of the collection of Lithuanian art of dr. Jaunius Gumbis "Collected and Preserved", September 2016 - January 2017, National Museum of Lithuania, Vilnius.
Published: "The Lithuanian art collection of Jaunius Gumbis". Museum and Collector - 6. Vilnius: National Museum of Lithuania, 2016, P. 257.