The Martyrdom of Saint MennasCa. 1580. Oil on canvas, 248 x 182 cm.
Saint Mena extends his arms and raises his gaze to Heaven, refusing to worship the graven idol presented to him at the left of the composition. As a result, he was martyred and decapitated. His suffering occurred in the year 296, under the rule of Diocletian. It is indicated here by the sword held by the person who has seized the saint, and by the pliers in the basket, which were used to pull out his eyes. This Egyptian saint was adopted as the patron saint of the Coptic Christians, who are predominately in Egypt. The composition of this scene is derived from the Martyrdom of Saint George in the Church of San Giorgio in Braida (Verona), which is the source of both the placement of the moment in front of a pagan altar, and the physiognomy of the characters. The IV Admiral of Castile gave this work to Felipe IV (1605-1665), who sent it to the Monastery of El Escorial. From there, it entered the Prado Museum collection in 1837.