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Italian School of the XVIIth century – “Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine” – Oil on canvas – 69 x 90 cm


17th century Italian school
” Mystical Wedding of Saint Catherine “
Oil on canvas
Usual cracks, repaints and restorations
69 x 90 cm

1 in stock

Titre Italian School of the XVIIth century – “Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine” – Oil on canvas – 69 x 90 cm

17th century Italian school
” Mystical Wedding of Saint Catherine “
Oil on canvas
Usual cracks, repaints and restorations
69 x 90 cm

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Category: Product ID: 3717


In the 17th and 18th centuries, three styles successively dominate European art: baroque, rococo, and neoclassicism. Often these styles mingle and overlap, but on the whole the Baroque inseminates the 17th century. Bold and theatrical – characterized by movement, intensity of emotions and powerful contrasts of lighting – the “religious” baroque was born in Rome under the brush of Caravaggio and Annibal Carracci, to glorify the renewed power of the Church Catholic in the face of the Protestant Reformation. It spread to Catholic countries – Spain, Portugal and France – because its sensitivity is consistent with the expression of religious fervor. It also becomes the symbol of the greatness and power of the monarchs – notably Louis XIV and Charles I – the greatest art lovers among the rulers of the time.

Faced with the Protestant threat, the Church becomes aware – more than ever – of the propaganda power of art. It issues official guidelines for artists, which encourage them to create realistic works, accessible to ordinary audiences. Although religion provides the bulk of artistic inspiration in most European countries, other subjects are gaining increasing consideration, such as portraits, landscapes, genre scenes – allegorical, mythological and mystical.


The Italian School of the XVIIth century

At the start of the 17th century, Italy dominated the European art scene, as in the Renaissance. Rome is the main creative and innovative hub. Around 1600, Caravaggio and Annibal Carrache lay the foundations of the Baroque pictorial style, abandoning the conventions of mannerism in favor of a new vitality. Charged with renewed energy and a surge of creativity, the Baroque style borrows elements of High Renaissance art – splendor and dignity – and those of mannerism – sensitivity and sense of movement – to merge them into a dynamic synthesis.

Painters and sculptors from all over Europe flock to Rome, not only to study the art of Antiquity and the Renaissance, but also to find lasting work. Prosperous and expanding, Rome constantly needs artists to decorate new churches and palaces. No other city bathes in such a spirit of artistic emulation. Some artists settle there permanently, while others return to their country to spread knowledge of the Baroque style.



The mystical marriage of saints is a source of inspiration for Christian painters. The theme is widespread in the Italian Renaissance, imbued with influences from Mantegna, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.
In 1479, the Flemish painter Hans Memling painted a triptych of Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine with the Child Jesus. Around 1510, Le Corrège and the Tuscan painter Fra Bartoloméo also painted the scene. As for Parmesan, he represents it four times – in 1521, 1524, 1525 and 1528.

Mystical wedding is the mysterious elevation of a saint to a form of union with Christ, similar to a wedding. The mystical wedding of Saint Catherine is in essence a purely virtual event, which has taken over the centuries and representations, different forms in terms of the place and the witnesses of the scene. Mary, the Child Jesus and Saint Catherine are in the foreground; San Sebastian closes the composition in the background. According to Christian hagiography *, Catherine was born around AD 290 to a noble family in Alexandria, Egypt. Endowed with great intelligence, she quickly acquired knowledge which placed her at the level of the greatest poets and philosophers of the moment. One night, she sees Christ in a dream and decides to dedicate her life to him, considering herself as her fiancée.


The artwork and its composition

The Mystical Wedding of Saint Catherine is part of the campaign led by the Catholic Clergy, to reaffirm its authority undermined by the expansion of Protestantism. The scene is a direct call to the heart and the spirit of the faithful whose faith is strengthened by the image of the Child Jesus, of Mary and of Saint Catherine. The tone – extremely emotional – overwhelms the viewer with a sense of spiritual passion. Imbued with a certain mannerism characterized by the smoothness and grace of the characters, we nevertheless perceive the beginnings of the Baroque.

The muted colors lulled in light – the natural clarity seems to emanate from the Baby Jesus – respond perfectly to the new type of dark realism of the Baroque style. Each character in the scene is harmoniously represented by an overwhelming physical presence, in a gentle atmosphere. The shapes are loose, the ports of the heads – delicately inclined – are refined, the expressions of the faces are graceful.

Neither completely mannerist nor completely baroque, this painting is of a singular elegance and a great poetry.


* Texts recounting the life of the Saints.

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