Miniature from a Compendium of Saints' Lives: Saint Catherine of Alexandria Disputing with the Fifty Philosophers

Miniature from a Compendium of Saints' Lives: Saint Catherine of Alexandria Disputing with the Fifty Philosophers

c. 1200-1210

Tempera and gold on vellum

Overall: 16 x 10.5 cm (6 5/16 x 4 1/8 in.)

Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1997.12

Location

Description

This miniature depicts an incident in the life of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, one of the early martyrs of the Christian Church, who was renowned for her learning. In AD 305, the Roman emperor Maxentius (the crowned figure seated at the left) attempted to compel Catherine (seated at the right) to renounce her faith by forcing her to engage in a disputation or debate with the fifty pagan philosophers of Alexandria (signified by their pointed hats). The clever Catherine, however, succeeded in converting the philosophers to Christianity. In a rage, Maxentius ordered her execution. This miniature probably came from a manuscript of saints' lives or possibly a martyrology. The subject of this miniature would have appealed in the scholastic climate of northeastern France. Its dating and place of origin are supported by its strong stylistic relationship to the famous Ingeborg Psalter of about 1200, now in the Musée Condé in Chantilly.

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