Madonna and Child with Saint Barbara and Saint Catherine
Netherlandish, Madonna and Child with Saint Barbara and Saint Catherine, ca. 1525, Oil on panel; 91.4 x 87 cm (36 x 34 1/4 inches), Museum Works of Art Fund 58.196
This panel depicts a nursing Madonna and Child with two early Christian martyrs in attendance. Identified by their attributes, Saint Barbara reads before a tower while Saint Catherine holds a spiked wheel and sword, the instruments of her torture. At center, an angel offers a dish of figs, symbols of Christ and of the Virgin birth. The artist is unknown, but elements of this painting’s style were practiced by followers of Leonardo da Vinci (1452—1519) from both Flanders and the Italian region of Lombardy. Here, the soft modeling and delicate faces that characterized Leonardo’s portraits have been emulated. The Dutch inscription on Saint Catherine’s robe and the brilliant detail of the costume and interior suggest that the panel was painted by an Antwerp master familiar with the work of Leonardo and of Milanese contemporaries.