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Panel - The Legend of St Catherine: St Catherine in prison
  • The Legend of St Catherine: St Catherine in prison
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The Legend of St Catherine: St Catherine in prison

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and painted alabaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Saint Catherine has been imprisoned by Maxentius, but she is sustained by a vision of Christ on the right and by a dove sent from Heaven wheich brought her food. The two figures on the left are the Empress Faustina and one of her officials, who were converted to Christianity by the Saint's example.

Physical description

The crowned saint appears in the centre of the panel looking through a window of the prison; she holds her hands raised apart in an attitude of prayer. The window is carved right through the panel. Two angels stand behind St. Catherine in the cell. Above the window is the figure of a dove holding a round wafer in its beak. On the left a crowned figure representing the empress kneels on the ground, her hands joined in prayer. She looks towards the saint, a scroll rising vertically from her hands. In front of her, at the bottom of the panel, kneels a male figure; he is dressed in a short, belted tunic, with a hood on his shoulder; his hands are also held together in prayer. He looks towards the saint and a scroll curves from his hands towards the window of the cell. On the right of the panel stands the Risen Christ with a halo. He is bearded and is shown wearing a torse, a loincloth and the shroud draped over his shoulders. He holds the cross-staff of the Resurrection in his left hand and gives a blessing with his right. The heads and wings of three angels are visible at the top of the panel and an angel stands in each of the top corners, holding a taper.

The arms and hands of the saint are damaged. Her face is badly worn. Part of Christ's staff is missing at the bottom. The top left-hand corner of the panel has been broken off. The heads of the two angels holding tapers at the top of the panel have been broken off. The face of the male figure is damaged. The top right corner of the panel has been restored with alabaster. 'Scrubbed'-looking darkened green paint remains at the bottom of the panel, with traces of the usual daisy pattern. There is red paint on the inside of Christ's shroud, on his halo, and the male figure's hood and on the angels' wings. The latter are decorated with white flecks in which are black dots. The back of the panel is incised with a number of small circles, three of which are patterned, one bearing the date '1791.' All appear to be of a later date than the panel. There are two original lead-plugged holes. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)


15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved and painted alabaster

Marks and inscriptions

A number of small circles, three of which are patterned, one bearing the date '1791.'
On the back of the panel.; incising


Height: 41.5 cm, Width: 25.4 cm

Object history note

Previously in a church at Roscoff, Brittany, where it was part of an altarpiece of the Life of St. Catherine. On loan from Dr W.L.Hildburgh from 1926. Given to the Museum by W. L. Hildburgh in 1946.

Descriptive line

Alabaster panel depicting St Catherine in prison. English, 15th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 87 (cat. 16), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0


Alabaster; Paint


Carving; Painting

Subjects depicted

Crown; Halo; Shroud; Hood; Dove; Jail; Angel; Torse; Tunic; Window; Loincloth; Scroll; Staff; Taper


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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