Saint UrsulaHer life and martyrdom are described in the 'Golden Legend' but little is known about her. Daughter of the Christian King of Brittany, she was courted by the son of the King of Britain and made a pilgrimage to Rome; she was martyred at Cologne.
Her female companions, initially said to have been few in number, numbered 11,000 in later accounts because of a medieval scribe's mistake. However, once they had been incorporated into the legend, their fate was to suffer martyrdom with Ursula.
A number of cycles depicting events from her life exist, such as Carpaccio's in Venice. Claude's painting of 'The Embarkation of Saint Ursula' in the Collection shows the saint leaving Rome on her return to Cologne, accompanied by her virgin companions.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN