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Circle of the Master of Liesborn, Saint Dorothy

Key facts
Full title Saint Dorothy
Artist Circle of the Master of Liesborn
Artist dates active second half of the 15th century
Series Fragments from an Altarpiece of the Virgin and Saints
Date made late 15th century
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 80.4 × 48.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG2152
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Dorothy
Circle of the Master of Liesborn

This is one of two fragments in the National Gallery’s collection of a larger work which showed the Virgin and Christ Child seated in a garden. It depicts Saint Dorothy, who lived in Caesarea (Kayseri in modern-day Turkey) in the fourth century.

Saint Dorothy is usually shown, as here, carrying a basket of roses. According to her legend she was killed for her faith on the orders of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. She was sure that she would enter paradise after her death, which she proclaimed was full of roses. As she was about to be decapitated she was mocked by a Roman scribe, Theophilus, who asked her to bring him some of these roses. Miraculously, Christ appeared as a young boy with a basket of the flowers.

On the ground behind Saint Dorothy are the attributes of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who is also included in the painting: a broken wheel (the instrument of her torture) and a sword, with which she was eventually killed.

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Fragments from an Altarpiece of the Virgin and Saints

These two panels showing Saints Dorothy and Margaret are fragments of a larger painting which probably showed the Virgin Mary and Christ Child seated in a garden surrounded by female saints. The other saints probably included Agnes and Catherine. The panels come from a chapel in Lippstadt in the region of Westphalia in western Germany.

There are several other panels in the National Gallery’s collection painted by the same anonymous master. He has been named after the altarpiece that he painted for the Benedictine abbey at Liesborn, fragments of which are also in the Gallery’s collection.