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Saint Catherine of Alexandria

lombard school


First documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1833, this panel has been attributed to a painter of the Lombard school; it was most likely executed around the second half of the 16th century. It depicts the Christian princess Catherine of Alexandria, who according to legend was martyred in AD 305. Here the saint is portrayed against a broad landscape in the presence of her typical attributes: a crown, which alludes to her royal origins; the breaking wheel, symbol of her martyrdom; and a sword, of which only the hilt is visible and next to which appears the inscription ‘Nympi’.


Object details

Inventory
166
Location
Date
early years of the 17th century
Classification
Period
Medium
oil on panel
Dimensions
cm 68 x 51
Frame

Salvator Rosa, 82.5 x 60.5 x 6.5 cm

Provenance

Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 35); purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Inscriptions

In basso a sinistra 'NYMPI'.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 - Augusto Cecconi Principi;
  • 2001 - Paola Mastropasqua.

Commentary

The provenance of this work is still unknown. It is first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1833, when it is listed in the Inventario Fidecommissario as a painting of the ‘Venetian school’. While later 19th-century sources, including Adolfo Venturi (1893), maintained this general attribution, Roberto Longhi (1928) proposed instead the circle of Domenichino, and more specifically an artist belonging to ‘that low-grade rank that would often work in the churches of the Roman countryside and Ciociaria’. Although Paola della Pergola (1955) rejected Longhi’s suggestion in favour of a Lombard master influenced by the style of Moretto, it was taken up again by Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006), who ascribed the panel generally to a ‘Roman master’, adding that it was executed in the first years of the 17th century.

Antonio Iommelli




Bibliography
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 71;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 109;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 194;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 81, n. 144;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 58.