'St Catherine', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

St Catherine with a halo holding a wheel as others look on

Oil on canvas, painted 1857, 34.3 x 24.1cm, Tate. Bequeathed by Mrs Emily Toms in memory of her father, Joseph Kershaw, 1931

A humorously treated scene in the workshop of a medieval artist. Improbably overdressed, he is painting a model posing as St Catherine with her traditional attributes, the spiked wheel and the palm of martyrdom.

Of this figure, Rossetti said:

'I mean the lady to be a person of wealth, probably the donor of the picture in hand to some church, and wishing that the figure of the saint should be her own portrait.'

The work was originally commissioned by Ruskin, who later rejected it, calling it an absurdity.