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Saints Genevieve and Apollonia
Lucas Cranach the Elder
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Saint Genevieve, born in the fifth century, is the patron saint of Paris. She was a nun, and helped protect the city from attack from the Huns and the Franks. Here, she holds the candle that miraculously relit after the devil blew it out while she was praying alone one night.

Saint Apollonia was a virgin martyr who lived in the second century. She was tortured during an uprising in Alexandria: her teeth were pulled out and she was told she would be burnt to death unless she renounced her Christian faith. She refused, and threw herself into the flames. Considered the patron saint of dentists and dental problems, she is often depicted with the pair of pliers used to extract her teeth.

This painting was originally part of a multi-panelled altarpiece (‘The Saint Catherine Altarpiece’ in Dresden) made by Cranach in 1506, shortly after he was appointed court painter to the Elector of Saxony, Friedrich the Wise.

Key facts
Artist Lucas Cranach the Elder
Artist dates 1472 - 1553
Full title Saints Genevieve and Apollonia
Group The St Catherine Altarpiece: Reverses of Shutters
Date made 1506
Medium and support Oil on limewood(?)
Dimensions 120.5 x 63 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1987
Inventory number NG6511.1
Location in Gallery Room 4
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The St Catherine Altarpiece: Reverses of Shutters

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These paintings were originally part of a multi-panelled altarpiece with wings that could be closed to cover the central panel. As the backs of the wings could sometimes be seen, they were also decorated; that’s where these four figures, of Saints Genevieve and Apollonia, and Saints Christina and Ottilia, once appeared. These images have since been separated from the inner faces of the wings.

This altarpiece was one of the first commissions Cranach made for the electors of Saxony and was almost certainly displayed in the electors’ chapel in the castle at Wittenberg. The central panel, now in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, depicts the martyrdom of Saint Catherine witnessed by Elector Friedrich the Wise and possibly Johann the Steadfast.

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