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Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Attributed to Galizia Fede

(Milan c. 1578 - c. 1630)

The painting represents Catherine, an Egyptian princess, portrayed as she looks up at the sky, absorbed in her meditations on the Sacred Scriptures. The saint is depicted with the instruments of her martyrdom – the cogwheel and sword with which she was killed – and a crown, studded with pearls and precious stones, recalling her noble origins.

The work was traced back to the catalogue of Fede Galizia on the basis of the wording “FEDE” legible in large letters on the book, and according to critics, identifiable as the painter’s signature.

Object details

1600-1610 circa
oil on panel
cm 34 x 26

Salvator Rosa, 94 x 42 x 4 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room IX, no. 101); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 33; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.



Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1992 Istituto Centrale del Restauro (disinfestazione).


This painting is first documented in the Borghese collection in 1693, when it was described in the inventory for that year as ‘a picture measuring one-and-a-half palms in height depicting a woman with a crown on her head and a book in her hand, gilt wooden frame, by Alessandro Veronese, on panel’. Indicated in the fideicommissary lists (1833) and Giovanni Piancastelli’s object descriptions (1891) as a work by an unknown artist, in 1893 Adolfo Venturi attributed it to Filippo Lauri, an attribution rejected by Roberto Longhi (1928) who considered it instead to have been painted by ‘a Tuscan-Roman mannerist, possibly Antonio Pomarancio’. Partially accepting Longhi’s argument, Paola della Pergola proposed the name Fede Galizia in 1955, interpreting the word written on the book, ‘FEDE’, as the painter’s signature, being in her view identical to the one on the rim of the bowl in Judith with the Head of Holofernes (inv. 165). The scholar also emphasised the typically Tuscan characteristics perceivable in this work, which is close in style to Pomarancio and has affinities with the decorative manner of Jacopo Zucchi and Giorgio Vasari.

In 1963, Stefano Bottari rejected the attribution of this St Catherine to Fede Galizia, since in his view ‘the style, quality and very humanity of the work link it to Tuscan-Roman Mannerism, in the direction of Pomarancio’, a view reconfirmed by the scholar two years later in his monograph on Fede Galizia (Bottari 1965), but rejected in 1989 by Flavio Caroli, who revived the attribution advanced by Paola della Pergola.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 460; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 132; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 198; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 28, n. 31;
  • S. Bottari, Fede Galizia, in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXIV, 1963, pp. 309-318, pp. 309-318; 
  • S. Bottari, Fede Galizia Pittrice (1575-1630), Trento 1965, p. 15; 
  • F. Caroli, Fede Galizia, Torino 1989, p. 89, n. 36
  • 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. 78.