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Panel - The Legend of St Catherine: the beheading

The Legend of St Catherine: the beheading

  • 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

After surviving many tortures St Catherine is shown on the verge of execution. Her eyes are blindfolded and the executioner standing with his left foot on the saint's shoulder raises his axe. A gaoler with keys attached to a staff stands on the left by the gate of the prison while the Emperor Maxentius, carrying a sword, stands to the right.

Physical description

The crowned and blindfolded saint, wearing a cloak over her gown, kneels on the ground at the front of the panel; she supports herself on her left hand, and holds her head over the block, for which she appears to reach with her right hand (missing). The crowned and bearded figure of the emperor, wearing a belted gown and a tippet, stands on a higher piece of ground on the right of the panel, looking down at the saint at his feet; he holds a sword in his right hand. A bearded gaoler wearing a low-belted doublet, stands behind the saint in the prison doorway; the doorway is cut through the thickness of the panel (an unusual feature). The gaoler pushes the saint towards the block with his right foot and the end of his key-staff. The executioner, also bearded, his gown tucked in his belt, stands in the centre of the panel, his right foot on the saint's shoulders. He holds a falchion (damaged) in both hands, swinging it above his head. A figure wearing a cap and a tippet and gown stands in the background, looking slightly to his right.

The top of the panel is damaged but the remains of two angels bearing the soul of the saint in a napkin are visible. The emperor's left hand is damaged and his sword is broken. The top right-hand corner of the panel is broken off. The saint's right arm is missing as are the executioner's left arm and hands and part of his falchion. Traces of paint remain, especially traces of red on the gown of the standing figure in the background and of blue in the folds of the garments of the saint and the executioner. The wings of the angels at the top of the panel are red with white flecks and black dots. The characteristic green ground with the daisy pattern looks 'scrubbed.' The back of the panel bears many apparently random marks including a large 'X.' There are three lead-plugged holes with the remains of latten wires. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)


15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved and painted alabaster

Marks and inscriptions

Many apparently random marks including a large 'X'.
On the back of the panel.


Height: 40.2 cm, Width: 25.8 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 the beheading of St Catherine. English, 15th century.

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

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 91 (cat. 20), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0


Alabaster; Paint


Carving; Painting

Subjects depicted

Falchion; Crown; Doublet; Gown; Sword; Belt; Cloak; Cap; Emperor; Tippet


Christianity; Religion; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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