Skip to main content


In Gallery 8 you will discover two coloured, wooden statues: St Sebastian carved c.1525 by Spanish artist Alonso Berruguete, and Action 125 made in 2011 by Iranian born, London-based artist Reza Aramesh. Created for very different settings, the materials, techniques, under-life-size scale, uncannily heightened naturalism and idealization of the male body are closely comparable.

Both show youthful victims in physical and psychological anguish. A Roman soldier and early Christian convert Sebastian was martyred in Rome in 286. The anonymous Muslim Iraqi prisoner-of-war was subjugated on 14 April 2003 by invading American forces in Tikrit, as the Iraq War (2003–2011) began.

They may be individuals but, stripped of clothes and dignity, they come to represent ‘everyman’. Timeless images of the tortured, disempowered and emasculated male, they tell a universal tale of pain, fear, submission and vulnerability, but also of defiance, strength, resistance and resilience. These semi-naked, bound and exposed bodies also speak of beauty, and even erotic desire.

Image of Action 125 © Courtesy the Artist

Temporary Display details

Curators and experts behind this exhibition

Associated Galleries

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...