St. Catherine

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1857
Model: Elizabeth Siddal is the model for St. Catherine


◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 50 (no. 89).

The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 166

Scholarly Commentary


The iconographical significance of St. Catherine seems to have held a special interest for DGR. In 1849 we wrote a sonnet about her Mystic Marriage after seeing Memmling's famous painting in Bruges. This picture takes up St. Catherine's legend from a different angle, however, and specifically deals with her figural importance for the artist. The picture represents a Medieval painter working on a portrait of Catherine, who poses with her standard symbol, the wheel, in her left hand. “In the background, assistants prepare a cartoon of St. Sebastian” ( The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 166 ), whose martyrdom is represented as rhyming with Catherine's.

Production History

“The only oil picture painted by Rossetti between 1853 and 1858” (Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 50 (no. 89)). Grieve calls it “an unsatisfactory work, revealing the artist's uncertain handling of the medium” The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 166 ).


As with so many of DGR's works that deal with the lives of the saints, Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend is an implicit textual presence in this picture. According to the legend, the Emperor Maxentius fell in love with Catherine after her mystic marriage to Christ. When she spurned the emperor's offer of marriage, he had her tortured and killed, broken on a wheel that later became her sacred emblem.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s89.raw.xml