The Roman Emperor Maxentius condemned Saint Catherine, a fourth-century princess of Alexandria who had attempted to convince him of the validity of Christianity, to twelve days of starvation in prison. Veronese shows her in a dark prison cell comforted by the dove of the Holy Ghost. Behind and below her are fragments of the wheel with which the Emperor sought, unsuccessfully, to kill her. She was ultimately martyred by beheading and holds the martyr's palm. The painting was done late in Veronese's career, probably around 1580–85, when his work was characterized by a dramatic use of light and a new depth of expression.
private collection, continental Europe, later U.S.A. (until 1992; sale, Christie's, New York, January 16, 1992, no. 38, for $440,000 to Citibank Art Advisory for private collection); private collection, Madrid (1992–99)
Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco. Letter to Christie's, New York. November 12, 1991 [see Ref. Christie's 1992], attribute it to Veronese and suggest a date in about the 1580s, comparing it with other works by Veronese close in date and similar in style; further observe that the method of illumination is particular to Veronese and suggest that the underdrawing is like that in the artist's "Temptation of Saint Anthony" (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen).
Important Old Master Paintings. Christie's, New York. January 16, 1992, pp. 70–71, no. 38, ill. (color), cites the opinion of Pignatti and Pedrocco [see Ref. 1991]; notes that Roger Rearick, judging from a transparency, does not believe the painting to be autograph.
Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco. Veronese. Milan, 1995, vol. 2, pp. 424–25, no. 316, ill. (color).
Richard Cocke. Letter to Keith Christiansen. January 11, 1996, suggests that both the painting and a related drawing with the same composition (Uffizi, Florence) are by Francesco Montemezzano.
Keith Christiansen. Letter to Richard Cocke. [between January 11 and May 30, 1996], considers it unlikely that this painting and the Uffizi drawing are by the same artist, suggesting that the drawing was made after and not in preparation for the painting; rejects the attribution of the painting to Montemezzano.
Richard Cocke. Letter to Keith Christiansen. May 30, 1996, rejects the attribution of the painting to Veronese but agrees that the Uffizi drawing is a copy.
Richard Cocke. Letter to Arne R. Flaten. May 27, 1997, suggests that it may be by the same unknown follower of Veronese working in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century who painted a "Queen of Sheba before Solomon" (no location mentioned).
Alessandro Ballarin. Letter to Keith Christiansen. September 10, 1999, attributes it to Veronese and calls it a late work.
Keith Christiansen in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1998–1999." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Fall 1999), p. 29, ill. (color), attributes it to Veronese and dates it about 1580–85; notes that there is no early record of the painting, and that it may have been made for a small altar in a Venetian church.
Sergio Marinelli. Cinque secoli di disegno veronese. Florence, 2000, p. 93, under no. 56, tentatively attributes the Uffizi drawing to Claudio Ridolfi.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Venice and the Veneto." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 63 (Summer 2005), p. 25, fig. 22 (color), relates it to the artist's "Christ in the Garden Supported by Two Angels" (1584; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan), another religious composition in which a flash of supernatural light pierces the darkness.
The Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, owns a drawing (1855 F), tentatively attributed to Claudio Ridolfi, made after this painting.