The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine

Hendrick ter Brugghenca.1618-20

Chrysler Museum of Art

Chrysler Museum of Art

According to early medieval lore kept alive in Jacopo da Voragine's Golden Legend, the fourth-century princess, Catherine of Alexandria, defied the pagan Roman emperor Maxentius with her eloquent defense of the Christian faith and was sentenced to die. When she survived the tortures of a spiked wheel that was miraculously split asunder by God, Maxentius had her beheaded. Her attribute, a broken wheel, appears in Ter Brugghen's painting. Echoing Caravaggio's bluntly realist aesthetic, Ter Brugghen portrayed the saint not as a beautiful heroine triumphant in her martyrdom, but as a plain woman cruelly depersonalized by her blindfold and bowed pathetically under the executioner's hand. Ter Brugghen did not, however, adopt Caravaggio's Baroque high drama. As always in his art, the mood here is hushed and contemplative. Equally restrained is the painting's color scheme of pinks and mauve, a typically lyric Ter Brugghen palette


Show lessRead more


  • Title: The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine
  • Creator: Hendrick ter Brugghen
  • Date: ca.1618-20
  • Location Created: Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Provenance: Anonymous central European Colleciton (up to ca. 1920); Mr. H. Bredius, Edenbridge, Kent (acquired early 1920's); English Art Market, 1956-1957; Newhouse Galleries, New York, 1960; Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.; Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. to the Chrysler Museum, 1971.
  • Physical Dimensions: 39 x 28 7/8 in. (99.1 x 73.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on wood