The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine
William Roscoe believed that this was a 'beautiful and highly finished drawing' by Federico Barocci (?1535 - 1612), one of the leading Italian altarpiece painters in the second half of the 16th century with important papal and royal patrons across Europe and much admired by artists such as Rubens. This has since been disputed and the drawing is now attributed to an unknown artist working in Emilia in Northern Italy. The highly finished state of the composition and the fact that it has been 'squared-up' with a grid, preparatory to transferring the design on a larger scale, suggests that it was intended for a larger altarpiece on the theme of the Mystic marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Saint Catherine was a legendary 4th century AD queen, whose prayers before an image of the Virgin and Child caused her to have a vision of the Christ Child placing a ring on her finger representing her spiritual marriage to God. In this drawing, Saint Catherine is seen on the right, holding out her hand to receive the ring from Christ seated on the Virgin's lap.