Painted and gilded linden wood
Gift of Ethel Morrison Van Derlip in memory of her mother, Julia Kellogg Morrison
- Review the story of Saint Catherine. The artist who made this sculpture used
to tell viewers about Catherine's life.
What does Catherine's crown symbolize?
Can you find a symbol of the evil she overcame?
How has the artist emphasized Catherine's victory?
Catherine stands on the figure of Maxentius, a symbol of her triumph over evil.
- Where do you see smooth curved lines in this sculpture?
Catherine's face, hair, and hands.
Where do you see straight angular lines?
Catherine's clothing, the figure of Maxentius.
The artist used these two kinds of lines to create contrast in the sculpture.
What effect does this contrast have?
Catherine's face stands out because its smooth lines contrast the angular lines of her clothing.
- The late Gothic manner in which this sculpture is carved is called the "hard style."
What is hard or sharp about it?
The sharp, angular folds of Catherine's clothing.
- This sculpture functioned as part of an altarpiece, made to educate the illiterate and to inspire devotion. Knowing this,
how big do you think it is? Explain. In order for people to see this on an altar, it would have to be large. Find an object or
person of similar size-63 inches.
How might the way it was used have influenced its size?
Such statues had to be quite large to be seen by the worshippers.
- Catherine of Alexandria was renowned for her beauty. Do you think the woman represented in this sculpture is beautiful?
Why or why not? What is considered beautiful changes over time and is different for each person. Saint Catherine's facial features are
typical of German and Austrian Gothic standards of beauty. If you were to carve a sculpture of a beautiful person, would it look
different than Saint Catherine? Would any of the features be like Saint Catherine's?
- Although it is not apparent in the image, the sculptor who carved Saint Catherine hollowed out the sculpture from the back and left
the back open and unfinished.
This sculpture was not meant to be viewed from all sides, but rather set against a wall on an altar; the viewer wouldn't see the back. Also, a hollow sculpture is lighter in weight, easier to move, and less likely to crack.
- Even though the story of Catherine tells us she died at the hands of Maxentius, Europeans during the Middle Ages considered her
Catherine represented the virtue of defending one's beliefs, even in the face of death. Her reward for her bravery, according to Christian mythology, was a place in the kingdom of heaven.
- The story and sculpture of Saint Catherine tell us about the triumph of good over evil.
What other stories can you think of about good overcoming evil?
Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, the Little Mermaid.
Explore the other works of art in the World Mythology set of images.
Which other myths feature the triumph of good over evil?
Memorial tusk, Theseus, Medusa, Mary Magdalene