Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Twelve Scenes from Her Life

Object Details


Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Twelve Scenes from Her Life


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

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


Italian (Aretine)


Italy (Place created)


about 1330


Tempera and gold leaf on panel


100 x 170.2 cm (39 3/8 x 67 in.)

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According to the writings of some medieval theologians, one of painting's key purposes was to illustrate sacred texts for the largely illiterate population. This panel fulfills that aim, portraying the legend of Catherine of Alexandria in a dozen scenes. In fact, a painting of the Virgin and Child inspired Catherine's own conversion to Christianity. That event's depiction (at top left) is a fitting demonstration of the instructive power of medieval images.

The central panel of this altarpiece depicts Saint Catherine, Princess of Alexandria, holding her attributes of a book and martyr's palm. Catherine was of noble birth and well educated in the liberal arts. The narrative scenes begin at top left and portray the young Catherine and her mother visiting a holy hermit who gives the girl an image of the Virgin and Child, Catherine's vision of the Virgin and Child, her baptism, her mystical marriage to the Christ Child, her famous debate with pagan scholars, and the scholars' subsequent martyrdom after she converts them to Christianity. The episodes at the right include her imprisonment by the Emperor, the Empress's visit and conversion, her miraculous survival of death by a spiked wheel, the decapitation of the soldiers she converted to Christianity, and, lastly, her death by beheading.

before 1824

Possibly Galgano Saracini, Italian, 1752 - 1824 (Siena, Italy), probably by inheritance to his son, Alessandro Giulio Saracini.

before 1877

Possibly Alessandro Giulio Saracini, Italian, 1807 - 1877 (Siena, Italy), probably by inheritance to his nephew, Fabio di Carlo Corradino Chigi.

before 1906

Possibly Fabio di Carlo Corradino Chigi, Italian, 1849 - 1906 (Siena, Italy), probably by inheritance to his son, Guido Chigi-Saracini.

before 1923

Possibly 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 & Company (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.

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

Nicholas de Koenigsberg, La Passe, Ltd., born 1882 (New York, New York; Buenos Aires, Argentina), probably by inheritance to his wife, Paula Ch. de Koeningsberg, 1945.

1945 - 1970

Paula Ch. 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.

Mostra giottesca: Onoranze a Giotto nel VI centenario della morte (April to October, 1937) (Cat. 124)
  • Palazzo degli Uffizi, (Florence), April 1 to October 1, 1937
Masterpieces of Art (European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800) (May to October, 1939) (Cat. 245)
  • New York World's Fair, (Queens), May to October, 1939
Exposición de arte gótico: Colección Paula de Koenigsberg (1947) (Cat. 2)
  • 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) (Cat. 60)
  • 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) (Cat. 128)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (Los Angeles), November 9, 2008 to February 1, 2009

Offner, Richard. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting: The Fourteenth Century. Sec. 3, vol. 6 (Glückstadt, Germany: J. J. Augustin, 1956), p. 144n28.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), p. 58.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 4, ill.