Artist unknown (German, Rhenish, late 15th–early 16th century),
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
polychromed wood, Height: 31 in.; 78.74 cm
Given in memory of Julia C. Morsman by her family and friends, 1974.2
This sculpture of the Roman martyr St. Catherine includes numerous allusions to her life. She is shown stepping on the pagan emperor Maxentius, who ordered her execution for persisting in her faith and refusing to marry him. The book symbolizes Catherine’s intellectual strength, and in her right hand she once held the sword of her execution. As was common, the saint is depicted in fashionable contemporary dress, perhaps to make her more relevant to the Renaissance viewer.
The figure’s elegant S-curve, the broad, tender face, and the angular drapery folds are characteristic of German Renaissance sculpture from the Lower Rhine region.