St. Bartholomew the Great church

St. Bartholomew the Great , London, United Kingdom

Hirst's 'St. Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain' (2006) is installed in City of London church.

'Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain' (2006)

Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2015

“I like the confusion you get between science and religion … that’s where belief lies and art as well.”[1]

Hirst's ‘Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain’ (2006), is on display as part of a long-term loan to the church of St. Bartholomew the Great in the City of London. This work follows the Christian artistic tradition of depicting the martyred apostle with his flayed skin and instruments of torture. The sculpture was inspired partially by etchings and paintings of the saint Hirst was exposed to as a child educated in a Catholic school, and partially by Marco D’Agrate’s statue of Saint Bartholomew draped in his own skin (1562) in the Duomo in Milan.

‘Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain’ acts as a reminder that the strict demarcation between art, religion and science is a relatively recent development. Hirst explains that historically, depictions of Saint Bartholomew (the patron saint of doctors and surgeons) were often used by medics to aid their anatomy studies.[2] In Hirst’s interpretation, the serene saint stands on a table littered with the tools used to make the original sculpture. He holds a scalpel, as according to traditional depictions, but also a pair of scissors. Inspired by Tim Burton’s film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990), this addition implies that “his exposure and pain is seemingly self- inflicted. It’s kind of beautiful yet tragic.”[3]


[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘An Interview’, Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Beyond Belief’ (Other Criteria/White Cube, 2008), 26–27
[2] ibid. 26-27
[3] Damien Hirst cited in ‘Beyond Limits, Sotheby’s at Chatsworth: A Selling Exhibition’ (Sotheby’s, 2006)