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Parmigianino, The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine

Key facts
Full title The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine
Artist Parmigianino
Artist dates 1503 - 1540
Date made about 1527-31
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 74.2 × 57.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1974
Inventory number NG6427
Location Room 9
Collection Main Collection
The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine

The infant Christ places a ring on Saint Catherine’s finger in her vision of a ‘mystic marriage’. Parmigianino has positioned the gold ring with a blue stone at the very centre of the painting. Beside Saint Catherine is the spiked wheel upon which she was tortured for her Christian faith.

The identity and significance of the pair of figures in the distant room is unclear. The placement of the large male head in profile in the lower left corner is also very odd; the halo suggests he is Saint Joseph.

Parmigianino was influenced by a painting of the same subject by Correggio (Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples). However, Parmigianino has created a more mysterious and consciously ‘artificial’ image. This work may have been painted in Bologna after the artist fled from Rome in 1527, when the city was sacked by the troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

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