Enthroned and elegantly dressed, Justina of Padua looks toward the heavens in the center of the composition, pleading for intercession. Justina was a Christian martyr who died under the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Maximian. Her tormentors surround her, on the verge of stabbing her to death, while child angels descend from heaven bearing her martyr's crown and palm.
Paolo Veronese made this highly finished modello in preparation for an altarpiece for Saint Giustina in Padua, the church built in the fifth century on the site of the Justina's martyrdom. Veronese and his studio painted the altarpiece from 1574 to 1575, using the drawing as a guide. Its squaring–the light ruling of a grid in black chalk–allowed the design to be transferred to the surface of the altarpiece prior to painting. Veronese used varying amounts of white bodycolor throughout, from the thickly painted, brilliant white light of the heavens in the upper part of the drawing to the more thinly applied highlights in the draperies of the figures below.