Another early representation is in a mosaic in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli (Rome, Italy), probably made in the year 682. It shows a grown, bearded man in court dress but contains no trace of an arrow. The archers and arrows begin to appear by 1000, and ever since have been far more commonly shown than the actual moment of his death by clubbing, so that there is a popular misperception that this is how he died.
A mainly 17th-century subject, though found in predella scenes as early as the 15th century, was St Sebastian tended by St Irene, painted by Georges de La Tour, Trophime Bigot (four times), Jusepe de Ribera, Hendrick ter Brugghen and others. This may have been a deliberate attempt by the Church to get away from the single nude subject, which is already recorded in Vasari as sometimes arousing inappropriate thoughts among female churchgoers. The Baroque artists usually treated it as a nocturnal chiaroscuro scene, illuminated by a single candle, torch or lantern, in the style fashionable in the first half of the 17th century.
There exist several cycles depicting the life of Saint Sebastian. Among them, the frescos in the "Basilica di San Sebastiano" of Acireale (Italy) with paintings by Pietro Paolo Vasta.
Egon Schiele, an Austrian Expressionist artist, painted a self-portrait as Saint Sebastian in 1915. During Salvador Dalí's "Lorca (Federico García Lorca) Period", he painted Sebastian several times, most notably in his "Neo-Cubist Academy". For reasons unknown, the left vein of Sebastian is always exposed.
In 1911, the Italian playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio in conjunction with Claude Debussy produced a mystery play on the subject. The American composer Gian Carlo Menotti composed a ballet score for a Ballets Russes production which was first given in 1944.
In his novella Death in Venice, Thomas Mann hails the "Sebastian-Figure" as the supreme emblem of Apollonian beauty, that is, the artistry of differentiated forms, beauty as measured by discipline, proportion, and luminous distinctions. This allusion to Saint Sebastian's suffering, associated with the writerly professionalism of the novella's protagonist, Gustav Aschenbach, provides a model for the "heroism born of weakness", which characterizes poise amidst agonizing torment and plain acceptance of one's fate as, beyond mere patience and passivity, a stylized achievement and artistic triumph.
Renaissance artists had access to history that we currently do not. There was obviously some reason why they chose to depict him as a beautiful young man. Since Sebastian was a Gaul, it could have been influenced by the beauty of The Dying Gaul, one of my all time favorite statues. The warrior is depicted as a beautiful man, but there is obviously love and lust for his beauty that the sculptor saw. It is also likely that Renaissance artists may have known some historical gossip about Sebastian, or the loving relationships that existed between the early brothers and sisters in Christ. Who knows why they depicted him as a beautiful young man, but they have left behind a question for history and the beauty of man. Since many of the Renaissance artists were homosexuals, St. Sebastian allowed them to depict a beautiful naked (or nearly naked) young man, very similar to those young models they often used.