Description Catherine of Alexandria was one of the most popular saints in medieval western Europe. Legend describes her as a wise and beautiful virgin of noble birth who was executed for being a Christian. This image and its two associated panels (Walters 37.2486 and 37.2488) show Catherine confronting the Roman emperor, converting the learned pagans who were supposed to disprove her Christian beliefs, and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, confounding a second group of scholars sent to visit her in prison. The panels were once part of an altarpiece recounting the entire story of Catherine's martyrdom. Simple paintings and sculptures to remind one of the deeds and virtues of saints were commonly found in private chambers. According to legend, Catherine lived in Alexandria, Egypt, around A.D. 300. To stop her proselytizing for Christianity, the emperor assembled a group of learned men to refute her. Instead, she converted them by using her powers of persuasion, suggested by the gesture of counting off points of an argument on her hand. Catherine was later imprisoned, threatened with forced marriage to a pagan, tortured on the wheel, and then decapitated. She is the patron saint of virgins, philosophers, and wheelwrights.
- Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1988.
- Realms of Faith: Medieval and Byzantine Art from the Walters Art Museum. Museum of Biblical Art, New York; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha. 2008-2009.
Provenance Leopold Blumka, New York, prior to 1943, by purchase; Dr. R. Walter Graham, Jr., Baltimore, 1971, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1972, by gift.
Credit Gift of Dr. R. Walter Graham, Jr., 1972
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