St. Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1320-1325
egg tempera and gold leaf on wood, likely poplar
82.2 x 44.5 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6430)
This work was once the left panel of an altarpiece: the saint looked tenderly towards the Virgin and Child at centre. Catherine of Alexandria was tied to the wheel (an instrument of torture) then – when it miraculously broke – beheaded. Here she bears the horrific weapons that identify her: the wheel has been reduced to a brooch; she holds the pommel of the sword in one hand and a palm branch – symbol of her martyrdom and spiritual victory – in the other. Simone was among the greatest painters of his age, forging a style that was elegant, yet rooted in a new interest in reality, and would soon come to dominate all Europe.