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Italian, North, Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Key facts
Full title Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Artist Italian, North
Date made about 1508-10
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 45.1 × 38.7 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3118
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, North

This painting was once a portrait, but it was altered to represent a saint. The hair of the figure was originally completely different, her hand was resting on a different object and her dress was decorated with gold around the edges. Later, after the dress and background had been completed, she was given loose hair, as well and a spiked wheel and martyr’s palm which identify her as Saint Catherine of Alexandria. After varnishing, the gold decoration on the dress and hair was painted over and a veil was added. These changes were probably carried out at a relatively early date.

The sitter may have asked for the portrait to be changed because she wished to be identified with her name saint or patron saint by adopting her attributes, or the artist might simply have decided to recycle a rejected or neglected work.

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