This painting depicts the martyrdom of St Erasmus, third century bishop of Formiae in Campania (Italy). According to legend, Erasmus was persecuted and martyred under the Emperor Diocletian (284-305), portrayed as the crowned figure in this painting. Influences by later myths, the painting shows Erasmus disembowelled with a windlass – the windlass is a reference to a story of Erasmus, in the guise of St Elmo, preaching undeterred throughout a raging storm. Erasmus is said to be the patron saint of sailors and stomach ailments. And was also adopted by clothmakers (as depictions of the windlass sometimes resemble a spindle).