The Roman Emperor Maxentius condemned Saint Catherine, a fourth-century princess of Alexandria who had attempted to convince him of the validity of Christianity, to twelve days of starvation in prison. Veronese shows her in a dark prison cell comforted by the dove of the Holy Ghost. Behind and below her are fragments of the wheel with which the Emperor sought, unsuccessfully, to kill her. She was ultimately martyred by beheading and holds the martyr's palm. The painting was done late in Veronese's career, probably around 1580–85, when his work was characterized by a dramatic use of light and a new depth of expression.