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Portrait of a Young Woman as Saint Agatha 1516 - 1517

Not on display

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.

Glossary Open


The arrangement of different elements in a work of art.


The representation of something as a model of perfection.

Composition, Idealisation


  • Acc. No. NG 2494
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 69.00 x 58.00 cm (framed: 91.7 x 83.7 x 9cm)
  • Credit Purchased 1989