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Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
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Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Pieve di Cadore, Belluno, Veneto (Italy), 1490 - Venice (Italy), 1576

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) See author's file

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Ca. 1560. Oil on canvas.
On display elsewhere

Although no entirely autograph painting of this subject survives, Titian painted it on numerous occasions, both as a single figure and within larger compositions. In 1648, for example, Ridolfi mentions at least tre inventioni di Santa Caterina martire, che si sposa a Christo diversamente dipinte, belonging to Cristofo and Francesco Muselli in Verona. The first (lost) image of the saint as a single figure is documented as having been painted in 1540 for Alfonso d´Avalos and its invention must be related to the book Santa Caterina Vergine which Pietro Aretino dedicated that year to Avalos. The second painting dates from around 1568, as on 10 December of that year Titian complained to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese that Cardinal Alessandrino (Michele di Bonelli) had not yet paid him for the image of that saint that he had sent him. This painting can be identified with the one now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts attributed to the studio of Titian.

The Museo del Prado painting, which has scarcely been considered by modern scholars, has certain similarities with the Boston painting. The physical type of the saint is identical, as is her rich silk clothing with a striking printed floral pattern. More interesting is the relationship of this painting with The Virgin and Child in the Accademia in Venice, whose X-radiograph shows that it is painted over a saint who is usually identified as Mary Magdalen but whom, given her close similarity to the present work, can be identified as Saint Catherine of Alexandria. This fact allows us to date the invention of the composition if not the Prado painting itself to the start of the 1560s, alongside the Accademia Virgin and Child. Given the way that Titian replicated his compositions, the comparable size of the two works does not seem to be coincidental.

Jacopo de Voragine popularised the legend of Saint Catherine, princess of Alexandria who refused to marry Maximian in order to dedicate herself to God. Having publicly refuted various learned elders, she was martyred in 308 AD. Her remains were born by angels to Mount Sinai, according to Roman texts on the lives of the martyrs. The wheel with its spikes and the sword refers to her martyrdom while her status as a princess, no doubt appropriate as a subject for a royal foundation such as the Escorial, explains the crown and to some extent her silk clothing, although these are also in line with the decorative tendencies evident in late works from Titian´s studio. Similarly luxurious clothing, for example, is to be found on the figure of Pontius Pilate in the Saint Louis Ecce Homo.

The Libro de entregas of the Escorial of 1593 records the painting´s arrival as Saint Catherine, with the sword, by the hand of Titian, an attribution upheld by Siguenza who described it in the Sacristy of the monastery, as well as by Cassiano dal Pozzo in 1626. The Museo del Prado has a Saint Margaret and identical (including in size) to the painting now in the Galleria degli Uffizi, with which the present work shares similar handling, gestures and a certain resemblance of the model. While there is no record of these paintings being sent, their scant quality suggests that they arrived in Spain after Titian´s death, possibly sent by his followers (it has been suggested that Palma Giovane painted both the Saint Catherine and the Saint Margaret) with the intention of maintaining the privileged relationship that Titian enjoyed with the Spanish monarch. The painting remained in the Escorial until it entered the Museo del Prado in 1839 (Text drawn from Falomir, M.: Tiziano, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2003, p. 406).


Technical data

Inventory number
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Ca. 1560
Height: 135 cm; Width: 98 cm
Royal Collection (Monastery of El Escorial, 1593; Royal Palace of El Buen Retiro, Madrid, "pinturas recogidas de las Casas Arzobispales", 1747, no. 355; Buen Retiro, "primera pieza-antetribuna", 1772, no. 355; Buen Retiro, 1794, no. 95; Royal Monastery of El Escorial, sacresty, 1839).

Bibliography +

Cavalcaselle, Giovanni Battista, Crowe, Joseph Archer, Tiziano, la sua vita e i suoi tempi con alcune notizie della, II, successori Le Monnier, Florencia, 1877, pp. 378.

Beroqui, P., Tiziano en el Museo del Prado, Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones, 35, 1927, pp. 194.

Berenson, Bernard, Italian pictures of the renaissance. List of the principal artists and their works with and index of places :Venetian school, I, Phaidon, London, 1957, pp. 188.

Wethey, Harold E., The paintings of Titian, Phaidon, 1969, pp. 178-179.

Andrés, Gregorio de, Relación anónima del s. XVII sobre los cuadros del Escorial, Archivo español de arte y arqueología, 44, 1971, pp. 62.

De Andrés, G. Harris, E., Descripción del Escorial por Cassiano del Pozzo, Archivo español de arte, nº 179, 1972, pp. 1-33 [13].

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 710.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, I, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, 1990, pp. 242 nº 865.

Noticias. Nuevos depósitos. Oviedo. Museo de Bellas Artes, Boletín del Museo del Prado, 11, 1990, pp. 116.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, Catálogo de las colecciones históricas de pintura veneciana, Editorial Patrimonio Nacional, 1991, pp. 106.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Felipe II: mecenas de las artes, Nerea, Madrid, 1992, pp. 404,408.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Tiziano y la monarquía hispánica: usos y funciones de la pintura veneciana en España (siglos XVI y XVII), Nerea, Madrid, 1994, pp. 276, n. 60.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, De Tiziano a Bassano. Maestros Venecianos del Museo de Prado, Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 1997, pp. 142.

Falomir Faus, Miguel, Tiziano, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, pp. 276.

Le botteghe di Tiziano, Alinari 24 ORE, 2009, pp. 257-8.

Bustos Hevia, Gabino, 'Tiziano Vecellio. Santa Catalina de Alejandria' En: El factor Prado: los depósitos del Museo Nacional del Prado., Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias,, 2022, pp. 22-25 nº1.

Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, Buen Retiro, 1747. Núm. 355.
PINTURAS ENTREGADAS en dichas Casas Arzobispales a don Santiago de Bonavia [...] {11295} 355 / Otro [lienzo] de vara y media de alto y vara y quarta de ancho de santa Cathalina martir original del Ticiano en seis mil reales

Inv. Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1772. Núm. 355.
Primera Pieza / Antetribuna [...] {14343} 355 / Santa Cathalina Martir vara y quarta de alto poco menos de ancho = escuela veneciana

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 473.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 865.
Tiziano. / 865. Santa Catalina en oración. / Tiene la santa las manos levantadas al cielo (E.) / alto 4 pies, 10 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 6 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 865.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 95.
Otra [pintura] de Ticciano con Stª. Catalina aciendo Oracion, de Cinco quartas y media de alto, y cinco quartas menos dos dedos de ancho con marco dorado..1500

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

10.06.2003 - 07.09.2003

Pintura veneciana del siglo XVI de las colecciones del Museo del Prado
04.12.1997 - 08.02.1998

Location +

Oviedo - Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias (Deposit)

Update date: 29-09-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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