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This picture is the central part of the triptych “Martyrdom of St. Catherine”, performed by Cranach in 1506 - when the artist had already managed to work for several months at the court of Frederick the Wise.
The plot of the triptych refers to a famous Christian legend. At one time in Alexandria, Queen Catherine ruled, who wanted to become a Christian. Her wish came true: she was baptized by one hermit. At the same time, Emperor Maxentius was in Alexandria, who sought to undermine the true faith of a woman. He sent fifty pundits to her, but they could not shake Catherine’s devotion to Christianity.
Moreover, these sages themselves decided to become Christians, but the cruel emperor executed them all to one. Then Maxentius ordered Catherine to prepare a spiked wheel in which she would be tortured until she renounced her faith. But the plan never came true: lightning struck and cut the infernal device into two ... The angry emperor ordered Catherine to be beheaded.
As you can see, the artist chose the most dramatic motive in this story: in a matter of moments, the sword should destroy the innocent victim. Lucas surprisingly accurately reproduces the characters of the legend. First of all, the spiritually pure Catherine attracts attention, in whose eyes one cannot notice the fear of an imminent death. With her image, Maxentius is in contrast, whose cruelty and gloomy determination to bring the plan to the end cannot but cause a shudder in the viewer.
On the right and left parts of the triptych are depicted saints. A curious legend is also associated with one of them, Dorothea, which plot reminds of the previous one. Before the execution of Dorothea, one of the legalists decided to make fun of her and asked for a joke to bring paradise apples from the next world. When the saint was executed, an angel appeared at the place of her murder with a basket of fruit in his hands (he also depicted in a triptych), which made those present believe.
Christ In The Desert