Signed at lower right in brown ink, "H. de Cler..."; inscribed on verso at lower right in pen and brown ink, "No 28 H.de Clerq", at lower left, "1634", beneath this on a small piece of paper affixed to the support, in black chalk, "het schilder / v. de S. Be[?] / li Gend[?]", at upper left, when turned through 180 degrees, in pen and brown ink, "Hendrick de Clerck", in another hand, "nota het Schilderig van deze tekening berust tot / . . . [illegible]", at lower center, in red chalk, "6 2-15".
Watermark: Horn with strap, inside shield.
Hendrik de Clerck was the foremost artist in Brussels in his time, serving from 1594 as court painter to Ernest, Archduke of the Netherlands, and his successors, Albert and Isabella. De Clerck belongs to the generation before Peter Paul Rubens, and stylistically his work is close to that of the Antwerp late Mannerist Marten de Vos, with whom he is thought to have studied. De Clerck's surviving paintings include large religious subjects for churches and small easel or cabinet pictures with mythological themes. Some two hundred fifty drawings from him hand have come down to us. Dated about 1617, "The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian" is the first drawing by de Clerck to enter the Library's collection. It is a study for the central panel of the triptych in the Sint-Martinuskerk, one of de Clerck's major altarpieces still in situ in the small town of Asse on the outskirts of Brussels. De Clerck assiduously prepared the altarpiece to which "The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian" relates. A drawing in Schloss Wolfegg, Baden-Wurttemberg, represents an early design for the entire composition before it was separated into the tripartite panels of the triptych. A drawing by a studio assistant of de Clerck's in the Graphische Sammlung der Universitt̃sbibliothek, Erlangen, represents an intermediate stage of the central panel's composition, followed by the new Morgan Library acquisition. Preparatory studies for the side panels are in the Staatliche Graphische Sammlungen, Munich; the Musee royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels; and the British Museum, London. At least two other drawings for the project by studio assistants are known, all in the Graphische Sammlung der Universitatsbibliothek, Erlangen.