The J. Paul Getty Museum

Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Twelve Scenes from Her Life

Object Details

Title:

Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Twelve Scenes from Her Life

Artists/Makers:

Donato d'Arezzo (Italian (Aretine), active 1315 - about 1340)

Gregorio d'Arezzo (Italian (Aretine), active 1315 - about 1340)

Culture:

Italian (Aretine)

Place:

Italy (Place Created)

Date:

about 1330

Medium:

Tempera and gold leaf on panel

Object Number:

73.PB.69

Dimensions:

107 × 174 cm (42 1/8 × 68 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

This panel depicts the early Christian saint, Catherine of Alexandria, holding a book and a palm leaf of martyrdom, surrounded by a dozen scenes from her legend. A beautiful and highly intelligent young noble woman, Catherine vowed only to marry if she found a suitor who surpassed her in every way. She was presented with an image of the Virgin and Child by an elderly hermit, who encouraged her to pray to the Virgin so that she might be granted a vision of her spouse. When she did as instructed, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child, her bridegroom. Having converted to Christianity and been baptized, Catherine was mystically married to Christ.

In the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great sanctioned the use of images in churches since, he contended, they served as books for the illiterate. This adage was repeated and expanded upon by theologians in later centuries. Saint Thomas Aquinas insisted that, in addition to their didactic function, images served two further ends. Firstly, they aided believers in fixing the examples of the saints more vividly in their memory, and secondly, they served to excite more intense feelings of devotion than text alone, and therefore facilitated a more exalted meditative experience. The events of Catherine’s conversion, shown in the opening four scenes at left, offer a fitting demonstration of the instructive, cognitive, and devotional power of images, since it was through her contemplation of an image that Catherine experienced her vision, subsequent conversion, and mystic marriage.

The remaining eight narrative scenes follow the legend of Saint Catherine as recounted by Jacobus de Voragine: Catherine debating with pagan scholars, who were converted to Christianity after their encounter with her, and the scholars’ subsequent martyrdom; Catherine’s imprisonment by the Emperor; the Empress’s visit and conversion; Christ comforting Catherine in prison; her miraculous survival of death by a spiked wheel; the decapitation of soldiers she had converted to Christianity; and, lastly, her own death by beheading.

Provenance
Provenance
by 1903 - 1906

Fabio di Carlo Corradino Chigi, Italian, 1849 - 1906, by inheritance to his son, Guido Chigi-Sarcini, 1906.

before 1923

Guido Chigi-Saracini, Italian, 1880 - 1965 (Siena, Italy), sold to Luigi Grassi I, by 1923.

- 1923

Luigi Grassi I, Italian, 1858 - 1937 (Florence, Italy), sold to Wildenstein and Company and André Seligmann.

1923 -

Wildenstein & Co. (New York) (Paris, France; New York, New York) and André Seligmann, French, died 1945 (Paris, France)

- by 1931

Possibly Achillito Chiesa, Argentinian, 1881 - 1951 (Milan, Italy), probably sold to William Randolph Hearst, by 1931.
Source: Art Objects and Furnishings (1941), p. 12, no. 1444-1413. Does not appear in any of the Chiesa sales.

by 1931 - 1941

William Randolph Hearst, American, 1863 - 1951 (Los Angeles, California; New York, New York) [sold, Hearst sale, Gimbel Brothers, New York, May 1, 1941, to Nicolas de Koenigsberg.]

1941 - 1945

Nicolas de Koenigsberg, born 1882 (New York, New York; Buenos Aires, Argentina), probably by inheritance to his wife, Paula Ch. de Koenigsberg, 1945.

1945 - 1970

Paula de Koenigsberg (New York, New York; Buenos Aires, Argentina), probably sold to Luigi Grassi II, 1970.

1970 - 1973

Luigi Grassi II (Florence, Italy), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Mostra giottesca: Onoranze a Giotto nel VI centenario della morte (April to October, 1937)
  • Gallerie degli Uffizi (Florence), April 1 to October 1, 1937
Masterpieces of Art (European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800) (May to October, 1939)
  • New York World's Fair (Queens), May to October 1939
Exposición de arte gótico: Colección Paula de Koenigsberg (1947)
  • Museo de Arte Hispano Americano Isaac Fernández Blanco (Buenos Aires), 1947
Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai (November 14, 2006 to March 4, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 14, 2006 to March 4, 2007
Hearst, the Collector (November 9, 2008 to February 1, 2009)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), November 9, 2008 to February 1, 2009
Bibliography
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