PotD - Take a Chance on The National Gallery


In an occasional series for this year, Susan Omand hits the Take a Chance button on London's National Gallery website and writes about what she sees... 



What’s the painting called, who is the artist and when was it painted?

Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Antonio de Solario, painted in 1514


What does The National Gallery say about it?

"This is the left-hand shutter of a three-part [triptych - Ed] folding altarpiece commissioned by the English merchant, Paul Withypool. The other shutter, which is also in the National Gallery’s collection, shows Saint Ursula.

"Saint Catherine holds a fresh green palm, the symbol of martyrs – those killed for their Christian faith. She rests its stem against a spiked wooden wheel, the instrument of her torture, which she survived when it miraculously broke into pieces. The sword she holds is a reminder of her eventual execution by beheading."

A larger/clearer look at the painting.


What’s interesting about the painting?

For me, its structure and style feels very modern, despite its classical subject matter; almost abstract, certainly deco-esque, with strong lines and a plain dark background. Also, being a "shutter," a physical door panel that shuts over one half of a main painting, the shape allows for an elongated composition without a lot of blank space that would demand a need to fill it with something. 

What do I personally like about the painting?

I like the repetitive echoes of shapes here - the oval of the sleeve matches the oval of the wheel, the matched halos of Saint and her companion angel, the angle of the sword echoing the angle of the palm frond, her hair and the flow of her cape - it's all very pleasing. I also love the expressive "fourth wall break" of the little angel's gaze.

What do I personally not like about the painting?

It's not about the painting itself, which I surprisingly really like, but I'm annoyed about the fact that, in its day, it might have been much overlooked, even perhaps physically hidden if closed, as the shutter to another, nominally more important, work. 

Would I have it on my wall?

Yes absolutely. 

Image - The National Gallery This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.