The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine

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The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine about 1628 - 1629


The figures are arranged across the picture as though in a classical sculpted frieze. Their ample solidity and richly coloured robes reflect the influence of Raphael and Titian on Poussin's early work in Rome. Saint Catherine of Alexandria receives a ring symbolising her spiritual marriage to Christ. She was baptised a Christian (supposedly in the fourth century) and refused to marry the Roman Emperor. He had her tortured on a wheel (after which the 'Catherine wheel' firework is named) but it broke miraculously. She was then beheaded. The palm frond and sword symbolise her martyrdom. Unusually, the painting is on five oak panels rather than canvas.

Glossary Open


A general term for art and architecture based on ancient Greek and Roman culture.


Derived from an element in classical architecture, it is used broadly to refer to any decorative horizontal band running along a wall or piece of furniture.


Death due to a person's adherence to a religious faith. It is also used to describe prolonged or extreme suffering of any kind.


The representation of subjects or ideas by use of a device or motif to create underlying meaning. A literary and artistic movement that originated in France and spread through much of Europe in the late 19th century. There was no consistent style but rather an appeal to the idea of the artist as mystic or visionary and the desire to express a world beyond superficial appearances.

Classicism, Frieze, Martyrdom, Symbolism


  • Acc. No. NG 2319
  • Medium Oil on panel
  • Size 126.00 x 168.00 cm
  • Credit Bequest of Sir John Heathcoat Amory 1973