Bernardo Daddi, A Crowned Virgin Martyr (Saint Catherine of Alexandria), ca. 1340
Tempera and gold leaf on wood panel, 24 1/4 x 12 in. (61.6 x 30.5 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 61.44.1
In the first half of the fourteenth century, Bernardo Daddi created naturalistic representations of devotional figures with a sweetness and grace that distinguished him from his most important predecessor, Giotto, who may have been Daddi’s teacher. This half-length image of a crowned virgin saint demonstrates Daddi’s characteristic subtle modeling of the face. The rosy colors of the saint’s cheeks and lips are animated by the contrast with faint shadows that articulate the contours of her nose and the slight squinting of her eyes. The palm frond in her right hand and the bejeweled crown on her head identify this figure as a martyr, possibly Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a scholar persecuted for her Christian faith, according to legend. This panel once formed part of a large altarpiece, most likely placed in a church, in early Renaissance Florence.
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