Description According to legend, Saint Catherine was a learned noble maiden from the Egyptian city of Alexandria who was martyred in the early 4th century on account of her Christian faith. The three small scenes at the bottom of this panel illustrate episodes from her life: the Roman empress is persuaded by Catherine to become a Christian; Catherine is beheaded by order of the pagan emperor; angels carry the saint's body to the top of a mountain on the Sinai Peninsula (below is depicted the vision of Saint Eusthatius, who was converted to Christianity when while hunting he saw a deer with a crucifix between its antlers). The Monastery of Mount Sinai, founded in the 6th century, is now dedicated to Saint Catherine. Its compound, with two pilgrims approaching from the left, is shown in the lower left corner of the upper, larger composition. Above it is Mount Sinai itself, with several small chapels on its slopes and Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law on its summit. Saint Catherine is portrayed in royal dress. Two angels crown her with laurel wreaths, and she holds a cross and a palm branch that signify her martyrdom for Christ. To her right is a spoked wheel by means of which she was tortured before her execution. Books, compasses, and an armillary sphere betoken Catherine's learning. Behind them is Mount Catherine, where the saint's body was miraculously rediscovered by the Sinai monks centuries after her death.
Provenance Zoumboulakis, Athens, Greece, by purchase; Richard Howland, Washington DC, 1951, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1998, by gift.
Inscriptions [Translation] The empress came to believe in Christ The beheading of the saint The angels carried the saint[‘s body] to the mountain
Credit Gift of Richard Hubbard Howland, 1998
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