Oil on wood
Framed: 116 x 93 x 11 cm (45 11/16 x 36 5/8 x 4 5/16 in.); Unframed: 95 x 71.3 cm (37 3/8 x 28 1/16 in.)
Holden Collection 1916.825
The spiked wheel identifies this woman as the Christian martyr Saint Catherine.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian, was martyred for refusing to make sacrifices to idols as decreed by the pagan Roman emperor Maxentius. While Maxentius first attempted to slay Catherine with spiked wheels, the machine broke when she prayed for salvation, and the emperor subsequently beheaded her. Catherine is identified in portraits through objects related to her martyrdom, such as a broken wheel, or a palm branch symbolizing the victory of the eternal spirit over mortal flesh. In sixteenth-century Florence, patrician women were often portrayed as such exemplary figures, indicating the virtues of the sitter.
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