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Pietro da Cortona, Saint Cecilia

Key facts
Full title Saint Cecilia
Artist Pietro da Cortona
Artist dates 1596 - 1669
Date made 1620-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 143.5 × 108.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1941
Inventory number NG5284
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
Saint Cecilia
Pietro da Cortona

Saint Cecilia, patron saint of musicians, sits serenely at a table, holding a palm – the symbol of her martyrdom – in one hand and a sheet of music in the other. On the left is a portable organ; on the right an angel leans on a harp. In the top right corner we can glimpse the upper parts of a classical temple, a reminder that this saint lived in third-century Rome. According to legend, Cecilia was a Christian who converted her pagan husband; an angel gave her a crown of roses. Here she wears a coronet of red and white roses in front of her halo.

This picture is an early work by Pietro da Cortona, one of the most influential and prolific figures of the Roman Baroque who decorated many of Rome’s churches and palaces. It is one of a small number of works stylistically linked with his frescoes in the Palazzo Mattei in Rome, datable to shortly before 1624–5.

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