OWE ZERGE.
OWE ZERGE. "Saint Sebastian", oil on canvas, signed and dated 1925. (Photo: Garpenhus Auctions)
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A painting of the once gay patron Saint Sebastian is now open for sale in a unique auction for a piece of artwork that the artist Owe Zerge hung in his home until his death.

The magnificent, albeit kitschy, depiction of Saint Sebastian’s suffering by the renowned Swedish artist is being sold by the Garpenhus auction house, the same company that recently sold “Boy in American sailor costume”, another one of Zerge’s homoerotic art pieces.

The Saint Sebastian oil on canvas is dated and signed 1925 and is a painting of Zerge’s friend and travel companion Hugo Holmer who was the model for this piece. Like many paintings of Saint Sebastian in the Zerges version, the young model may look more like sleeping beauty than being shot by arrows as punishment for his Christian faith.

Saint Sebastian, once the patron saint of those affected by the plague, has long been a popular image in the male gay world. It is not easy to exactly understand why except the image of the soldier wearing only a hip hamstring punished and penetrated certainly aroused all kinds of associations and fantasies of all kinds.

OWE ZERGE. "Saint Sebastian", oil on canvas, signed and dated 1925. (Photo: Garpenhus Auctions)
OWE ZERGE. “Saint Sebastian”, oil on canvas, signed and dated 1925. (Photo: Garpenhus Auctions)

Beauty and suffering in a compote that turned into eroticism during the 19th century and up to the mid-20th century.

After the gay revolution in the 1960s and 70s, Saint Sebastian returned in connection with the HIV / AIDS crisis in the gay community and that is perhaps more explainable, precisely in the role of a saint for the plague victims.

Owe Zerge was a Swedish artist, mainly active in oil painting but was also skilled in drawing and etching. Landscape motifs, still life and flower studies are typical of Zerge, although his portraits have been noticed recently.

For Owe Zerge, this great painting was special. Many times during his life he was offered money for the piece, but it hung in his home until his death in 1983.

The estate sold it to a gallery in Torestorp after his death and now it is for sale and is expected to garner more than the reserve of 7,000 EUR (11,755 AUD, 12,500 NZD). The previous painting of the “Boy in American sailor costume” sold for 35,351 EUR (59,300 AUD, 63,100 NZD)

OWE ZERGE. Boy in American sailor costume, oil on panel, signed and dated 1948. (Photo: Garpenhus Auctions)
OWE ZERGE. Boy in American sailor costume, oil on panel, signed and dated 1948 sold for 35,351 EUR in 2019 (Photo: Garpenhus Auctions)

The Saint Sebastian painting is part of the Auction House’s quality auction, which will be finalised on May 24 here.

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