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St Catherine of Alexandria

  • Object:

    Relief

  • Place of origin:

    Utrecht (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1480 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted terracotta in low relief, casted from a mould

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr G. H. Morland

  • Museum number:

    7703-1861

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10, case 2

Here St Catherine of Alexandria tramples the small figure of her persecutor the Emperor Maxentius underfoot. In her right hand she holds the wheel on which she was tortured. In her left hand she holds the sword with which she was beheaded. The border of her halo has an inscription. In translation it reads: 'O Saint Catherine pray for us'.
This relief is part of a small group of rectangular plaques. They are made of either red terracotta or white pipeclay. All four reliefs are of a similar size and very similar in style. The other three, however, are set in a vaulted chapel-like space or niche. Such plaques must have been used as objects of personal devotion in monasteries, convents, hospitals and the home.
St Catherine was especially revered as the bride of Christ and protectress of the dying. This relief would therefore have been well sited in a hospital. It might also have been used as a travelling icon for those near death.

Physical description

Full length figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria, holding in her right hand a wheel, and in her left a sword

Place of Origin

Utrecht (made)

Date

ca. 1480 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Painted terracotta in low relief, casted from a mould

Marks and inscriptions

oheilige : katherina : Bid : voer : ons
O Saint Catherine pray for us
inscribed at border of her halo

o : suete : heilighekatherï : derighet : ons : aen : / onse : heer : dat : / : vol : voerdi(g)h : voarden : iuhre : belof : ten
O sweet Saint Catherine introduces us to Our Lord, fulfilling therefore their promises
inscription starting at the bottom left and running around three sides of the frame

Dimensions

Height: 40.5 cm, Width: 22.1 cm, Depth: 3.5 cm, Weight: 1.94 kg

Object history note

Historical significance: The relief was produced by one of the Utrecht workshops exporting figures and reliefs in terracotta and pipeclay. Their products were imitated by other workshops in Colonne and Westphalia. The presentation of the figure as a three-dimensional statue, placed on an architectural bracket against a background imitating a brocaded textile, continues a convention of representing space in two-dimensional images. This was already seen in Netherlandish painting in the early 1400s.

Historical context note

This relief is part of a small group of rectangular plaques. They are made of either red terracotta or white pipeclay. All four reliefs are of a similar size and very similar in style. The other three, however, are set in a vaulted chapel-like space or niche. Such plaques must have been used as objects of personal devotion in monasteries, convents, hospitals and the home.
St Catherine was especially revered as the bride of Christ and protectress of the dying. This relief would therefore have been well sited in a hospital. It might also have been used as a travelling icon for those near death.

Descriptive line

Panel relief, St. Catherine of Alexandria, terracotta, North Netherlands, Utrecht, ca. 1480

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

Williamson, Paul, Netherlandish Sculpture 1450-1550, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002. 160p., ill. ISBN 1851773738.
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1861 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 30
Leeuwenberg, Jaap. 'Die Ausstrahlung Utrechter Tonplastik'. In: Festschrift Theo. Muller. Munich, 1965, pp. 151-167

Materials

Terracotta

Techniques

Polychromy; Low relief; Casting

Subjects depicted

Christianity; Evangelists; Sword; Wheel; Rosettes

Categories

Sculpture; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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