Marteldood van de heilige Catharina van Alexandrië

This is a Flemish Masterpiece


Jan Provoost

Period and date

16de eeuw 15de eeuw
(1462 - 1529)

This painting with the Beheading of Saint Catharine originally formed the right wing of a triptych. The left wing with The Dispute of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is in the collection of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. The paintings show scenes from the life of Saint Catherine, as it is written in the Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine. According to the legend, Catherine visited the Roman emperor Maxentius to question him about the persecution of Christians under his rule, accusing him of cruelty. In his response, the emperor tried to dissuade Catherine of her faith but was no match for her powerful arguments. He called in 50 scholars to aid him in his endeavour, but one by one they were converted to Christianity by Catherine’s reasoning and debating skills. This is depicted on the Rotterdam panel. Emperor Maxentius fell in love with Catherine but because she was fully devoted to her faith, she rejected him. Maxentius therefore sentenced her to death. Attempts to break Catherine on the wheel and burn her failed. Eventually she was beheaded and died a martyr. The horrific ending of the story is the subject of this panel.


For a long time, scholars assumed that the central panel of the triptych to which the Beheading of Saint Catharine belonged had been lost. Based on the iconographical themes of the wings it was assumed the central panel must have depicted the Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine. With the help of technical research, including dendrochronology, a new reconstruction was proposed with the Crucifixion (0000.GRO1661.I) as the central panel of the triptych. Dendrochronology is a technique with which the date of a wooden object is determined by the growth rings of the wood. It gives us an approximation of the earliest possible date a panel could have been painted. For the majority of the boards of the three panels an earliest possible date of 1505 was given. Moreover, the boards proved to be from the same tree. It is therefore likely that all three panels were in the workshop of Provoost around the same time, and that they were used for one and the same triptych.

This artwork is on long-term loan from to Musea Brugge by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp


met lijst, height: 120 cm
met lijst, width: 93 cm
met lijst, depth: 8 cm


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