St Proculus, by Michelangelo

Perhaps the most incisive of the three statuettes produced by Michelangelo for the arca, so expressively intense and physically viglorous, the Saint Proculus, came late to the attention of international criticism. In order to invent an image for the ancient joint-patron of Bologna (who is said to have handed the office over to Saint Petronius in the 14th century), Michelangelo's sole guideline was a vague hagiography: a Roman soldier or official whom the chronicles said was martyrized in Bologna in about 304 in the persecutions ordered by Diocletian - during which Saints Vitale and Agricola also lost their lives - and that a recent critical revision says never existed.

The figure evoked by Michelangelo to interpret the role of the soldier and martyr is a fashionable, contemporary youth, whose sole military attribute is the weapon, perhaps a lance, now missing, that he once held in his right hand: the figure wears a shirt and tunic tied tightly at the waist, stockings and soft boots, and a carefully cut cloak, hanging from one of his shoulders, not so much out of elegant carelessness, but as if ready to respond in the event of a sudden alarm.