Catalogue No. 46
The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine with St Peter

Artist: Palma Vecchio (Giacomo Negretti)
The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine with St Peter

c.1480-1528
Oil on Panel 32½ x 38 ins

Collection Details
Sir Sampson Gideon, later Lord Eardley, Belvedere House (information supplied by Prof Waterhouse: cf London and its Environs Described, 1761, i, p.273, and The English Connoisseur, 1766, i, p.13, as Marriage of St Catherine. Old Palma); thence by descent to Sir Francis Fremantle; his sale, Christie’s, 14 December 1945, lot 33; bt by Agnew for Lord Faringdon.

Literature
Philip Rylands, Palma il Vecchio, 1988, No.28. 

Background
St. Catherine of Alexandria dreamt that she saw the Madonna and Child, and that the Infant Christ betrothed her to him with a ring, which she took as a sign that she should vow herself to perpetual virginity.

The asymmetrical and unbalanced composition indicates that the picture has been cut at the left.  The panel is painted to the extremity of the left edge, but not to the right; it is, however, bevelled at the left.  An apparent pentiment at the left of the Madonna also indicates that there was originally an additional figure.  Behind the Madonna, a further pentiment suggests the previous existence of a curtain or screen between this figure and the landscape background.

The original composition is, as Prof Waterhouse has communicated, known by an old copy of this design that was at Hamilton Palace and is now in Lord Rosebery’s collection at Dalmeny.  Except in minor details of the landscape, it conforms exactly with the Buscot picture.  Behind the Madonna is a curtain and the composition is completed at the left by the figure of St. John the Baptist reading from a scroll.

As Francis Russell has kindly pointed out, the fine French, or French-style, rococo frame must go back to the collection of Sir Sampson Gideon, if not before.