Spanish School. Anonymous mannerist. Late 16th century. "Apparition of Christ to Saint Catherine of Siena"Oil on panel..54 x 41 cm. Frame measurements: 64,5 x 51,5 cm.Catherine of Siena is one of the most important saints and mystics of the Dominican Order or Order of the Preaching Fathers founded by Saint Dominic of Guzmán. This panel, which is in its original frame (54 x 41 cm. With the frame: 64.5 x 51.5 cm) made of carved and gilded wood, depicts one of the most important episodes in the life of the Italian saint, specifically the one in which Christ appears to her holding a heart of a glowing red colour in His hand. He opened her chest, introduced it and said: “Daughter, the other day I took your heart with me; today I give you mine and from now on you will have it forever." That previous miracle to which Christ alludes was the "mystical marriage" between the two, in which the saint offered a splendid ring in exchange for her heart.The anonymous painter has portrayed the story with four characters grouped in pairs staggered in depth and arranged on a bare, quasi-abstract background that seems to reflect an unadorned room. In the foreground are Saint Catherine of Siena and Christ, while behind are two angels who complete and balance the composition both with the space they occupy and with the colour of their wings and tunics, which match: purple in the case of one and yellow in the other.Santa Catherine, who wears her characteristic Dominican habit and has a crown of thorns arranged on her forehead -an inherent attribute of this Italian saint- opens her arms with a surprised air at the appearance of Christ who proceeds to give her the heart that was mentioned in the quotation. One of the angels, the one with the purple tunic and wings, proceeds to grab her by the shoulders to calm and comfort her, while the other angel seems to attend the scene as a mere spectator. For his part, Christ, who wears a simple blue tunic and earthy cloak, advances towards the saint while offering her his heart and holding the cloak with his left hand, a pose that gives him a certain elegance despite the noticeable stiffness of his body, which the rest of the characters also have. However, this stiffness or statism does not lack a certain nobility and transcendence.The characters are correctly drawn and modelled in a way that is not excessively precise as far as the habits are concerned, which are rather flat and stiff. The portrayal of the faces is very different –especially that of Christ, in which the mien, with angular features and pointed edges, are accurately captured– showing inexpressive countenances. The head of Christ, from which a golden glow emanates, is portentous and full of sweetness and delicacy. The facial features, beard and hair are treated with a thoroughness that we do not find in the rest of the characters. The painter has used a soft color, which he manages to use in a way that compensates the cold ranges of some clothes with the warm ones of others. All these characteristics, in addition to the use of a stylized canon, have led us to attribute the piece to an interesting Mannerist painter from the Spanish school who developed his mastery in the last decades of the 16th century.We would like to thank Dr. Javier Baladrón, PhD in Art History, for identifying and cataloguing this work.
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