BIENNALE INTERNAZIONALE DELL'ANTIQUARIATO DI FIRENZE : XXXI edition
Simone da Firenze
St Catherine of Alexandria, circa 1500
tempera on panel
115 x 53.5 cm
45 1/4 x 21 1/8 in
45 1/4 x 21 1/8 in
Dressed in ample red and green robes, Saint Catherine is shown as a monumental figure, against a gilded background enhanced with geometric patterns. She gazes towards the viewer holding the martyr’s palm in her right hand while she resting her left hand on a wheel, her attribute alluding to her violent torture on a spiked wheel. Saint Catherine was of royal descent and was martyred in the early 4th century by the pagan emperor Maxentius who had her tied to the wheel, which miraculously smashed into pieces. According to Pierluigi Leone de Castris1, this Saint Catherine of Alexandria is an important addition to the corpus of Simone da Firenze, a remarkable painter relatively unknown despite one signed work, the altarpiece of the Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli in Senise (1523). The present panel is particularly representative of Simone da Firenze’s unusual style. Probably acquainted with Raphael’s works - possibly through prints - he seems to have integrated modern traits of Italian painting with a certain eccentricity. Simone da Firenze’s style displays a well-balanced synthesis of the Lombard technique of artists such as Cristoforo Scacco da Verona or Donato Bramante, the decorative verve of Umbrian paintings developed by Perugino or Pinturicchio and the Southern influences as established by Stefano Sparano da Caiazzo and Andrea Sabatini da Salerno. This panel shows strong stylistic similarities with his earlier paintings generally considered to have been created by the artist, before he worked on the Senise altarpiece as well as the fascinating polyptych in the abbey of Sant'Angelo al Monte Raparo now in the Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo in San Chirico Raparo (1515 - 1520). Originally, the Saint Catherine presented here would have been part of an altarpiece similar to that of San Chirico Raparo in the figures and the background with punched gilded motifs. Similarly, the polyptych of Senise allows comparisons in terms of modelling of the features; the wheel carried by Saint Catherine is shown with the same volume and the light reflects on the spikes in an analogous manner. Likewise, the drapery of the garments is rendered with a comparable shadowing and rhythm while the Saints’ figures show the same monumentality and an analogous positioning of the arms. The references to Lombard artists such as Cristoforo Scacco - who is documented as having worked in San Giovanni a Carbonara in Naples - or Donato Bramante - who is said to have created an altarpiece in the Cappella del Succorpo of that same city - both believed to have been active in Naples at the turn of the century allow us to suggest a date for this work in the first decades of the sixteenth century. The fact that Perugino and Pinturicchio were active in Naples around 1505 and seem to have had an influence on Simone da Firenze at that time, further corroborates the dating of this work in between 1500 and 1510. In 1988, Riccardo Naldi wrote a study on a Saint Michael that had appeared on the Florentine market; of similar size and composition of the present work, the panel may have originated from the same altarpiece. The artwork described above is subject to changes in availability and price without prior notice. Where applicable ARR will be added.