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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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