St. Catherine of Alexandria

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Object Details


Lorenzo Costa, Italian, ca. 1460–1535


ca. 1480s


Tempera on panel


14 7/8 x 5 1/2 inches (FRAMED IN PAIRS)


Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Accession #

58.39 A


St. Catherine of Alexandria is one of eight saints Lorenzo Costa painted in the late 1400s. The graceful figures originally flanked a central devotional image on a monumental altarpiece, likely in or near Bologna, Italy. The saints are identifiable by their attributes and by their names, which are inscribed underneath them in a northern Italian dialect. Devotees used this information to find the saints who were most relevant to their personal needs.

St. Catherine holds a large breaking wheel that indicates the torture she suffered. She also holds a palm branch, which symbolizes martyrdom in general. Students pray to her because she was a philosopher and the patron saint of learning.