I saw our Lord fastened upon the cross coming down towards me and surrounding me with a marvelous light...Then there came down from the holes of his blessed wounds five bloody beams, which were directed towards the same parts of my body: to my hands, feet, and heart.
This was how, according to legend, Saint Catherine of Siena described receiving the stigmata. In this panel by Domenico Beccafumi, Catherine is shown kneeling in a small chapel while members of her order wonder what is overtaking her, since only she can see the miraculous vision. Another woman sits on the stairs, either asleep or lost in meditation. An altarpiece showing the Nativity is in the background.
Beccafumi effectively told the story with a minimum of detail. He uses a striking pose to demonstrate the ecstasy of the saint: she bends forward as if to meet the tilting crucifix, her arms outstretched to receive the stigmata. The small panel and its companion, The Miraculous Communion of Saint Catherine of Siena, were probably made for the predella of an altarpiece dedicated to Saint Catherine.