Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (Italian, Venetian, 15281588)
Oil on canvas; 45 3/4 x 33 in. (116.2 x 83.8 cm)
Anonymous Gift, 1999 (1999.225)
This late work by Veronese shows Saint Catherine, a fourth-century princess of Alexandria, in prison comforted by the dove of the Holy Ghost. Behind and below her are fragments of the wheel with which the Roman emperor Maxentius attempted, unsuccessfully, to kill her. One hand holds the palm of martyrdom, while the other reaches up to the celestial dove. The painting makes an immediate visual impact with its flash of supernatural light zigzagging over the brocade of Catherine's gown and the beautifully foreshortened, tender dove about to alight. This nocturnal scene, recently rediscovered, joins a handful of other sacred works by the artist in which darkness is pierced by a sudden electric light.