Michael Damaskinos, Saints Serge and Bacchus with St. Justina of Padua

Circa 1571-93
Egg tempera on wood
Byzantine Museum of Antivouniotissa, Corfu, Greece

The feast day for these three saints is October 7, the date in 1571 of the Holy League's decisive naval victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. The artist was from Crete, which the Turks had captured in 1569.

The image adapts the visual trope of the persecutor underfoot, more often used in portraits of virgin martyrs. The beast beneath the saints' feet presumably represents the Turkish forces at Lepanto. Its three heads may refer to the enemy's three leaders, an Ottoman admiral and the governors of Alexandria and Algiers (Young, 382).

Justina's attribute, a gladius (short sword) is in her right hand. All three saints were martyrs. The men's martyrdom is referenced by the crowns and palm branches being handed down to the men by the angels and Saints Peter and Paul. Justina already has her palm, and Christ is handing down her crown. She also appears in the upper register of a 1572 Veronese painting of the battle, praying for victory with Saints Peter, Roch, and Mark.

The date of the icon would have to be between Lepanto (1571), and the artist's death (1592 or 1593).

Read more about images of Justina of Padua, Saints Sergius and Bacchus, and the trope of the persecutor underfoot.

Source: this page at Wikimedia Commons.