This canvas depicts a well-known episode in the life of Catherine of Siena, when at the end of her life the saint revealed the sacred stigmata to the world, received as a gift during an ecstatic vision in 1375. According to the Legenda maior sanctae Catharinae Senensis, the mystic expressly asked her divine spouse to make the wounds invisible, secretly reliving the pain in her soul.
The saint is represented here with her typical iconographic attributes – the Dominican habit, the crown of thorns, the heart, the crucifix, the fleur-de-lis and the more unusual maniple - while she is lifeless and supported by two angels.
Salvator Rosa, 108 x 89 x 7 cm
Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room VII, no. 126); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, pp. 15-16; purchased by Italian state, 1902.
The first mention of this painting in the context of the Borghese Collection dates to 1790, when it was recorded in the inventory of that year as a work by the well-known Bolognese painter Agostino Carracci, brother of Annibale and cousin of Ludovico. While the attribution of the work to Agostino was confirmed in the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833, it was called into question by both Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) and Adolfo Venturi (1893), who rather saw in it the hand of Ludovico; similarly, Heinrich Bodmer (1939) ascribed it to the school of Ludovico. Roberto Longhi (1928), meanwhile, wrote of a ‘derivation from a model by Annibale rather than by Ludovico’.
In 1955, Paola della Pergola published the work, attributing it to Agostino Carracci without reservations; her opinion has been accepted by all critics (Stefani 2000; Herrmann Fiore 2006; Terribili 2009), with the exception of Stephen E. Ostrow (1966).
The painting certainly reveals Agostino’s interest in those ‘motions of the soul’ which he studied above all in Correggio’s works. In works such as this one, intended for private worship, he reproduced that intense pathos which implicitly invites the observer to participate in the gravity of the scene.