About this artwork

The palm frond and breasts in a dish identify the young woman as the virgin martyr St Agatha. According to legend, Agatha, a beautiful noblewoman who lived in Catania, Sicily, in the third-century, had taken a vow of chastity. Among her suitors was the Roman governor, who tried torturing her into submission by ordering her breasts to be cut off. She was saved miraculously and, as a paragon of courage and virtue, became a popular name-saint. Since this sensuous painting conforms in composition and character to contemporary Venetian portraiture it is possibly an idealised likeness of a young woman called Agatha.

Cariani (Giovanni Busi)

Cariani (Giovanni Busi)