Saints in Art: 06 – The Virgin Patronesses and the Great Virgins of the Latin Church

Of the Four Virgin Patronesses Mrs. Jameson says:

“We owe to these beautiful and glorious impersonations of feminine intellect, heroism, purity, fortitude, and faith, some of the most excelling works of art which have been handed down to us. Other female martyrs were merely women glorified in heaven, for virtues exercised on earth; but these were absolutely, in all but the name, Divinities.”

In the study of Art one learns to be grateful to these saints, whose lives, and the traditions concerning them, exercised such an influence on the minds of artists as stimulated them to the production of some of the most glorious works in existence.

To the scholarly and thoughtful Christians in the blossoming time of religious art, the legends of these saints appealed on the resthetic and poetic side, while to the unlearned they were to be relied on with absolutely unfailing faith. The Almighty might not hear and answer prayers that were breathed on earth, but if one of these holy virgins would present such petitions at his throne, all would be well. To these believing, trusting souls, beautiful pictures of these virgin saints were like heavenly visions.

We cannot accept these legends in the medic:eval spirit, as they were accepted by the artists who painted, and the devout who gazed in rapture on their works, but we can accept them as figurative and reverently discern their allegorical meaning; and in so doing we shall find a pleasure in religious art that can be attained in no other way.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria was unknown in the Western Church until the Crusaders, who believed that she had aided them in the East, introduced her name, life, and legends to European countries, in which she was soon devoutly venerated. She is patroness of learning, of students of all grades and classes, of educational institutions, and of eloquence. Of Venice she is a protector, and a favourite saint with ladies of noble birth, she having been of royal blood.

Her legend and even her existence have been doubted, but she retains her place in Art undisturbed, and in the hearts of saint-loving people she ranks next to Mary Magdalene. Even in England more than fifty churches are dedicated to her. To men she is a patroness of learning; to women, an ever present example of wisdom and purity.

'Saint Catherine of Alexandria', by Carlo DolciDevotional pictures of Saint Catherine represent her alone, as venerable, or grouped with other saints in Madonna and other pictures. As a patroness she has several symbols in common with other saints, as the book, indicating her learning; the palm of a martyr; the crown of a princess; and the sword, by which she died; but her distinctive attribute, which is rarely omitted, is the wheel by which the emperor desired to torture her; when the wheel is broken the miracle by which she was saved is symbolised. It is placed by her side, or at her feet, and in some cases is borne aloft by angels.

The legend relates that two wheels in – which knives were inserted were prepared, and Catherine was to be placed between them, and cut into a thousand bits by their revolutions. But when the saint was bound to these wheels an angel appeared, and fire from heaven burned the wheels and the fragments were scattered.

Catherine is represented in the dress of a princess, and usually wears a diadem. She is dignified and refined in person, with an intellectual and earnest countenance. Her representations are very numerous, having been executed in various kinds of engraving, as well as on canvas and in frescoes, and are readily recognised by the wheel, which is rarely omitted.

The beautiful small picture by Raphael, in the National Gallery, is praised by universal consent. It represents the saint to the knees; her right arm is folded on her breast, while the left rests on the wheel. She gazes at a bright spot in the sky with an expression of joyous peace. The background is a lovely landscape. One can but agree with Passavant, when he says:

“It is one of those works which nothing can describe; neither words, nor a painted copy, nor engravings, for the fire in it appears living, and is entirely beyond imitation.”

The picture in the Belvedere, Vienna, by Palma Vecchio, in which the Saint Catherine is said to be a portrait of the beautiful Violante, daughter of the artist, is a pleasing Madonna picture. Catherine is kneeling at the feet of the Virgin, in a rich Venetian costume, and wearing her crown as a princess. Whenever this saint is represented as a patroness of Venice by Venetian masters, she appears as a beautiful, regal woman, rather than as a learned or religious one. Several of these pictures are portraits, notably that by Titian, which is a likeness of Caterina Cornaro; Veronese and Tintoretto also painted figures of Saint Catherine which impress us as portraits. A Madonna and Child, by Titian, and a Holy Family, by Veronese, in both of which Saint Catherine is represented, are in the Uffizi.

As a patroness of learning Saint Catherine is frequently in the company of Saint Jerome and other Doctors of the Church; as patroness of Venice she is associated with Saint George; in other pictures her frequent companions are Saint Barbara and Saint Mary Magdalene.

Titian painted a magnificent altar-piece for the Frari, Venice, which is now in the gallery of the Vatican. It represents Saint Nicholas gazing upward, as one inspired; Saint Peter looks over the shoulder of the first named saint at a book, and a lovely Saint Catherine stands on the other side of Saint Nicholas; in the background are Saint Francis, Saint Antony of Padua, and Sebastian. In the clouds the Madonna and child are seen, the latter holding a wreath, as if to crown a saint, while two attending infant angels also have wreaths in their hands; it is a glorious picture. Painted in Titian’s later manner, it is an excellent example of the so-called Santa Conversazione, which pictures were less restrained in their composition than when the Madonna was enthroned in the centre; in these works the throne may be at the side, or in the background, or omitted entirely.

'The Marriage of Saint Catherine', by MurilloIn the Vatican there is also a Saint Catherine, by Murillo, which Taine describes as

“of a strange, disturbing attractiveness. Her beauty is of a dangerous order; her oblique glance and black downcast eyes gleam with a secret ardour. In Raphael’s works, the repose which sober colour gives and a sculptural attitude deprive the eyes of a portion of their vivacity. Spanish colour, on the contrary, is quivering; the unconscious sensuality of an ardent. nature, the sudden palpitation of fugitive vehement emotions, the nervous excitement of voluptuousness and ecstasy, the force, the rage, of internal fires, lurk in that flesh illuminated by its own intensity, in those ruddy tints drowned in those deep, mysterious darks.”

The Marriage of Saint Catherine is a lovely picture, whatever may be the light in which it is viewed. To the Church it is a devotional spbject; its mystical teaching is that of the close spiritual bond between Christ and his followers. When the Madonna, Child, and saint only are represented the subject assumes its most serious and dignified aspect, but angels, flowers, and other beautiful symbols are in harmony with its picturesque and poetic elements. When saints and other sacred personages are introduced as witnesses, increasing the dramatic interest, the whole is still concordant, and the mystical and deeply devotional character of the scene is not lessened.

The legend which this picture illustrates relates that, being the heiress to a kingdom, it was important that Catherine should marry, which she was constantly urged to do. But no suitor could be suggested whom she would accept. It hap- pened that an old hermit gave Catherine a picture of the Virgin and Child, and from that time she could think of Jesus alone, and loved him with all her soul.

In a dream she went with the hermit to a sanctuary on a high mountain, where she was met by a company of angels, and fell on her face before them; but one of these heavenly messengers called her to follow him, and leading Catherine before the Queen of Heaven, the angel begged her to accept the maiden as a daughter; The Virgin then presented Catherine to her Son, who, regarding her, said, “She is not fair enough for me.” Then Catherine awoke, and, seeking the hermit, in quired what she must do to be worthy of this celestial bridegroom.

When the hermit had instructed Catherine and her mother in the true faith, they were baptised, and in a second dream the Virgin appeared, attended by many angels, and, again leading the maiden to Jesus, said: “Lo, she hath been baptised, and I am her godmother.” Then Jesus smiled on Catherine, and pledged his troth to her, and placed a ring on her finger. When the maiden awoke the ring was there, and from that time she desired no earthly blessing, but longed to go to her Heavenly Bridegroom.

When the Emperor Maximin persecuted the Christians of Alexandria, Catherine was one of his victims. After many sufferings she was beheaded, and angels bore her body to Mount Sinai and placed it in a marble sarcophagus, above which, in the eighth century, a monastery was built. The picture of Angels Bearing her Remains through the air, by Mücke is as beautiful as it is familiar, by means of the reproductions of it.

Of the pictures of the Marriage of Saint Catherine much might be written, as many artists have painted this subject, in a great variety of methods. Many persons prefer before all others the picture by Titian, now in the Pitti, in which the Child Jesus is seated on a pedestal, and supported by the Virgin; Saint Catherine kneels before him, and Saint Anna holds her hand while the ring is placed on her finger. In the background are two angels, and Saint Joseph stands at one side.

This composition is much more simple and sincere than are those of other Venetian artists who lavished their wonderful powers of imaginative detail upon this subject, and introduced a variety of luxurious features; for example, making the scene of this mystical marriage a gorgeous palace, suitable for the banquets which they so magnificently portrayed, but quite out of keeping with this motive.

Correggio painted this subject twice; the smaller picture, in the Museum at Naples, is rarely mentioned, the larger one, in the Louvre, being better known and far more important. This has been intensely admired by art lovers and critics. It is the picture of which Vasari said that such heads could be painted in Paradise only. Correggio’s saint bends down in great humility, while in Titian’s picture she bows the head alone; here the Virgin herself unites the hands of the Saviour and the saint; Saint Sebastian stands at one side holding his arrows, while in the background the martyrdoms of the two saints are represented. To such subjects Correggio imparted an atmosphere of pious rapture, which is very noticeable in this work.

In the Church of the Augustines, in Antwerp, is Rubens’s picture of this mystical marriage, which is occurring in the midst of such an assemblage of saints that it has the air of a social function, to which guests have been invited. It is a magnificent picture, but the mysticism, poetry, and grace of the legend are lost, – they find no place in such a representation.

Taken for all in all, I have seen no Marriage of Saint Catherine which so strongly appeals to me as that by Murillo, which was presented to Pope Pius IX. by the Queen of Spain; it is in the gallery of the Vatican. In considering it I recall the quotation from Taine, already given, and agree with Viardot when he says that

“Murillo comes up, in every respect, to what our imagination could hope or conceive. We find in the attitude of the saints, and the expression of their features, all that the most ardent piety, all that the most passionate exaltation, can feel or express in extreme surprise, delight, and adoration.”

In contrasting Velasquez and Murillo, Viardot calls the former “the painter of the earth, and Murillo of heaven.”

Saint Barbara is a very different type of saint from Saint Catherine; she may fitly be called a Christian Minerva or Pallas Athena. The protector of armourers, gunsmiths, and fortifications, she is invoked against accidents from explosions, and from thunder and lightning. Her beauty was so great that her father, fearing that she would be sought in marriage, kept her imprisoned in a high tower. Here she reflected and studied, until she rejected the idols of her people, and entered into a correspondence with Origen, who sent to her a Christian teacher, in the guise of a physician, by whom she was converted.

When her father discovered this he denounced Barbara to the proconsul, and when all possible methods to induce her to recant had been tried in vain, her father took her to a high mountain and decapitated her with his own sword. While descending the mountain, a frightful tempest, with thunder and lightning, fell on him, and he was seen no more.

In devotional pictures, the sword, palm, and book are given to Saint Barbara, but her distinctive symbol is the tower, which, if small, she holds when standing, and rests on her lap if sitting; or it may be a massive structure in the background. A belief existed in the early Church that those who chose Saint Barbara as a patron saint could not die impenitent, from which it resulted that a sacramental cup and wafer were added to her other symbols, in works of art.

'Saint Barbara', by Palma VecchioOther pictures of Saint Barbara are unimportant when compared with that by Palma Vecchio, in Santa Maria Formosa, Venice. It is said that this Saint Barbara, like the Saint Catherine already mentioned, and the Flora, by Titian, in the Uffizi, are all portraits of Palma’s daughter Violante, famous not only for her beauty, but as having been the first love of the great artist, who represented her as the Roman goddess of spring and flowers.

In the Saint Barbara we see a majestic woman, with eyes raised to heaven. Her golden hair is crowned by a diadem, and a white veil is gracefully disposed about the head without concealing its beauty. Her robe is of a deep, rich brown, her mantle is crimson. There is an unusual feeling of harmony in this work; the beauty of the saint, the glow of colour, the healthful force and life of the impressive figure are, so to speak, fused one into another, producing a whole of which Taine says:

“She is no saint, but a blooming young girl, the most attractive and lovable that one can imagine. Two streams of magnificent brown hair glide down on either side of her neck; her delicate hands seem to be those of a goddess; her beautiful eyes are beaming, and her fresh and delicate lips are about to smile; she displays the gay and noble spirit of Venetian women; ample and not too full, spirituelle and benevolent, she seems to be made to give happiness to herself and others.”

In this picture Saint Barbara’s tower is in the background, and the cannon are at her feet.

Saint Catherine and Saint Barbara are frequent companions in works of art, and symbolise the active and the contemplative life; they appear thus in German pictures, in which Saint Barbara sometimes has a feather in her hand, referring to a German version of her legend which relates that, when her father scourged her, angels changed the scourge to feathers. This is seen in an exquisitely finished and beautiful Madonna picture in which Saint Barbara appears, by Hugo van der Goes, now in the Uffizi.

The most famous picture in which Saint Barbara is associated with the Virgin Mary is that in the Dresden Gallery, by Raphael, in which she is kneeling opposite to Saint Sixtus, from whom it is called the Madonna di San Sisto. Her tower in the background is partly concealed by the curtain at the side of the picture. This famous work, as a whole, is a lofty expression of Christian poetry in painting. Passavant says of it that the saints are praying to the Virgin in behalf of the faithful; Saint Sixtus is pointing toward them, and Saint Barbara, with hands folded on her breast, and eyes cast down, has an admirable expression of sweetness and charity. She is a very different being from the saint of Palma Vecchio’s great work. In studying this immortal painting, when one can turn from the Madonna and child, the Saint Barbara is a delight.

As a protectress against sudden death, and a patroness of firearms, effigies of Saint Barbara were frequently seen on shields and other armour, as well as on large field-pieces. In the Tower of London a suit of armour which belonged to Henry VIII. is ornamented with comparative scenes from the lives of Saint Barbara and Saint George; for example, Saint George is accused before the emperor and Saint Barbara is pursued by her father; Saint George is tortured and Saint Barbara is scourged, and thus the two lives are paralleled. The designs are well engraved and one is fully repaid for his trouble in examining this fifteenth century German style of ornamentation for arms and armour.

Those who are acquainted with the usual method of representing Saint Ursula, in which, under the voluminous folds of her cloak, she shelters great numbers of pigmy maidens, will understand that she is the patroness of young girls, especially of those still in school, and of all women who educate and care for young maidens.

There can be no more extravagant and improbable legend than that of Saint Ursula. Volumes have been written in arguing for and against its verity; it has been explained as a delightful allegory; the errors in its geography and in its dates have been both seriously and sarcastically reviewed; and however it is regarded, the fact remains that in the study of saints in Art, Saint Ursula cannot be ignored, and in order to comprehend and enjoy the numerous picturesque representations of this saint, something must be known of her legend.

When I began the study of the lives of the early Christian martyrs, I was under the impression – and many others have avowed the same ignorance to me – that these sufferers were, almost without exception, the poor, to whom the gospel was preached. But I have learned that among the comparatively few of whom we have any knowledge, and among those who were deemed worthy of canonisation, a goodly number were of noble, or even royal, blood.

Saint Ursula is still another royal martyr and saint, daughter of a King of Brittany, beautiful in person, skilled in accomplishments, and a learned woman withal, charitable, pious, and humble of heart. Her mother dying while Ursula was still young, the duties of the first lady of the court fell on her, and her father was quite content when the maiden refused the numerous suitors who desired to marry her.

At length the King of England sent ambassadors to demand the hand of the princess for his son. Ursula saw that her father was much disturbed, as he dared not offend so powerful a sovereign as the ruler of England. Then Ursula proposed that she should answer the ambassadors, which she did by declaring that she would marry Prince Conon on three conditions. First, he should give her as companions ten noble virgins, and to each of these he should give one thousand attendants, and still another thousand to wait on her; second, her marriage should not be consummated until three years had passed, and meantime, with her army of companions, she should visit the shrines sacred to the saints; third, the prince and his court should be baptised into the Christian faith, as Ursula would not wed an unbeliever.

Ursula did not imagine that her conditions would be accepted, but in case they were it would be her blessed lot to save the souls of all these thousands of virgins. To her surprise, the king and his son hastened to fulfil all her conditions, and when the eleven thousand maidens were assembled in Brittany, noblemen from all quarters gathered in great numbers to behold so much youth and beauty dedicated to Christ and a pious pilgrimage.

When all were assembled, Ursula preached to them, and such as had not been baptised now received that rite. Then the princess wrote to Prince Conon, that, having complied with her conditions, he was at liberty to visit her. On his arrival she told him that in a vision she had been bidden to go, with her virgins, to Rome. At this point the versions of the legend disagree; in some, it is said that Conon remained with her father; others relate that he accompanied the princess and her train on their pilgrimage. All agree that many holy priests, but no sailors, went on the voyage, and the virgins, being taught by heavenly influences, managed the fleet successfully.

They were driven, however, into the harbour of Cologne, where it was miraculously revealed to Ursula that, on their return here, she and all her virgins would suffer martyrdom. This she told to them and they rejoiced, which must have been most disheartening to Prince Conon, if communicated to him.

They at length arrived at Basle and were conducted over the Alps by six angels, finally reaching Rome. The Pope received the virgins with honour, and tents were pitched for them at Tivoli. Here, however he had come, Conon appeared, and, kneeling with Ursula and being blessed by the Pope, the prince declared that he no longer wished for anything except to share the martyrdom of the princess, and he changed his name to Ethereus, as symbolical of his complete regeneration.

Having visited the shrines of Rome, Ursula prepared to return, and Pope Cyriacus determined to accompany her in spite of the objections of his clergy, for he had been directed to do so by an angel.

The sight of this great company alarmed the barbarian captains of the troops in Germania, and they feared that the safe return of these virgins to Brittany would lead to the conversion of the whole empire to Christianity. Therefore a command was sent to the King of the Huns who was then besieging Cologne, and, on the arrival of Ursula and her followers, all except herself were slain. She was led before the prince of the barbarians, who, charmed by her beauty, desired to marry her, and when she indignantly refused he was furious, and shot her with arrows.

'Mary Magdalene, Saint Lucia and Saint Catherine', by CimaIn devotional pictures the symbols of Saint Ursula are the banner of victory as a Christian; the staff as a pilgrim; the arrow as a martyr; the crown as a princess; and frequently a dove, because it is said that a dove revealed the place of her burial to Saint Cunibert.

So numerous are the pictures of Saint Ursula, especially those by German painters, that it is difficult to choose those of which to speak. The Venetians represented her as a princess rather than a saint, for while they did not omit her symbols, her dress was so gorgeous that the minor details were scarcely noticeable. Carpaccio painted a grand series of eight scenes from her life, which are famous in the history of Art. These works, formerly in the chapel of the Scuola di Sant’ Orsola, are now in the Academy of Venice. Certainly the inmates of that school were to be envied a constant companionship with these remarkable works.

These pictures were executed between 1490 and 1515; in spite of a certain crudeness, and some features which are absolutely grotesque, they are wonderful works. Kugler calls them “masterly, rich in motives and character,” and even so critical a critic as Taine finds much to praise in Carpaccio.

“We find in him the chastest of medireval figures, and that extreme finish, that perfect truthfulness, that bloom of the Christian conscience which the following age, more rude and sensual, is to trample on in its vehemences.”

A great variety of objects are reprented in these pictures, and they are interesting as a certain kind of record, the life of Venice at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Later Venetian artists followed the style of Carpaccio, who introduced architecture, grand processions, tapestried halls, gorgeous fabrics, and a thousand brilliant and lustrous objects which could only be associated with the life of Saint Ursula by an imaginative Venetian painter, who desired to make his scenes as luxurious and as nearly golden confusion as might well be. In these characteristics Carpaccio was surpassed by later artists, by Giorgione, Titian, and Veronese.

In the chapel of the Hospital of the Soeurs Noires at Bruges, there are eight small pictures of scenes from the life of Saint Ursula. They were formerly attributed to Hans Memling, but are the work of Dierick Stuerbout. They are executed with great delicacy, and are most interesting as an example of Teutonic art in the early part of the fifteenth century. This artist holds an important place among the followers of the Van Eycks; his religious subjects were devoutly treated; his heads are so varied in character as to give an animation and individuality to his work; his drawing is good, and his draperies less angular than those of Jan van Eyck; his colour, too, excels that of his contemporaries, and all these qualities render these pictures of Saint Ursula very attractive.

The famous Reliquary of Saint Ursula, in the Hospital of Saint John at Bruges – said to contain an arm of the saint – was adorned with miniatures in oil by Memling in 1490. Six events, from the landing of the saint at Cologne to the time of her death, are represented. Of these Kugler says:

These little pictures are among the very best productions of the Flemish school. The drawing in these small figures is much more beautiful than in the larger examples by the same master: there is nothing in them meagre, stiff, or angular; the movements are free; the execution and tone of colour, with all its softness, very powerful; the expression in the single heads of great excellence.

It is more than thirty years since I examined this reliquary, but I have not forgotten the pleasure it gave me.

There is a very interesting picture of Saint Ursula in the Bologna Gallery, the work of Saint Catherine of Bologna, called also Santa Caterina de’ Vigri, who was an abbess of a convent of Poor Clares, and an artist of repute. Her representation of Saint Ursula is one of the many to which I have referred. The saint is a stately figure and wears her crown. With both hands she opens her royal, ermine-trimmed cloak, thus disclosing two groups of kneeling virgins, also with crowns, and hands folded in prayer. This picture is in distemper, on a panel.

The altar-piece by Stephan Lothener, in the Cathedral of Cologne, has on a side panel a picture of Saint Ursula, with her escort and her virgins, which is very famous. Albert Dürer wrote in his journal that he paid two silver pennies to have this picture unlocked, that he might see it. Meister Stephan died in 1451, and the excellence of this work makes it probable that it was one of his latest pictures.

In the Dresden Gallery is Hans Burgkmair’s Death of Saint Ursula. It is an animated scene, and the contrast between the calm resignation of the Christian maiden and the fierce barbarity of her murderers is excellently rendered. Burgkmair, with all his absolute realism, had a feeling for beauty and dignity, as well as for colour, in which he displayed unusual power and depth.

One would suppose that Prince Conon would frequently appear in pictures of Saint Ursula, but, on the contrary, those in which he is seen are remarkable for their rarity. Burgkmair introduced him in a picture now at Augsburg, in which he is enthroned with Saint Ursula. In Carpaccio’s series he is noticeable but twice: on the occasion of his first meeting with the princess, and when they kneel together, before the Pope. In the series by Burgkmair, he is important in the scene at Rome alone.

The Church of Saint Ursula at Cologne is decorated with an ancient series of frescoes, illustrating the life of the saint, now much injured by repeated retouching, and in the treasury of the church there is a fine Romanesque reliquary of Saint Ursula; but the treasure of this church is the alabaster statue of the saint, lying dead, with a dove at her feet; it is very beautiful. It is the work of Johann Lenz and is dated 1658.

No saint has been more honoured in England than Saint Margaret, where nearly two hundred and fifty churches are dedicated to her. This is partly due, no doubt, to the fact that a queen of Scotland introduced the name to Great Britain, and was herself canonised.

The Saint Margaret represented in art was the daughter of a priest of Antioch, and was reared by a Christian nurse, who converted her. The governor of Antioch, attracted by Margaret’s beauty, wished to marry her, but she refused him and declared herself to be a servant of Christ. She was deserted by her father and all her friends, and the enraged governor subjected her to frightful tortures without obtaining a recantation of her declaration. While she was in prison Satan appeared in the form of a dragon and sought to terrify her into submission, but she held a cross before him and he fled.

Another version relates that the dragon swallowed her, and then burst, and Margaret emerged unhurt. On account of this circumstance she is reverenced as the protector of women in childbirth, for whom she prayed just before her death, in memory of her escape from the great dragon.

Again and again she was tortured, but her firmness and piety made so many converts – five thousand being baptised in a day – that the governor ordered her to be beheaded.

Devotional pictures of Saint Margaret show her standing on the dragon, holding a cross, or, as in the famous work by Raphael, in the Louvre, she holds the martyr’s palm, and stands on a wing of the dragon, a horrid beast with open mouth. This picture of the beautiful virgin saint is said to have been presented by Raphael to Francis I., whose sister was Margaret of Navarre. While it certainly merits its fame, the best judges believe it to have been largely the work of Giulio Romano; it has, however, been so many times cleaned and restored that a correct estimate of it can scarcely be made.

We might look for pearls and daisies in pictures of this saint, since the word Margaret signifies a pearl, and a daisy is also a Marguerite; I know of but one, however, in which the flower appears, – in the Academy of Siena, – and although pearls are rare, I have seen them twined about the head of Saint Margaret.

In the Belvedere, Vienna, is a Saint Margaret avowedly by Giulio Romano. It is quite unlike that in the Louvre. The face is seen in profile, and a crucifix is in the hand. The works of Romano are reminders of Raphael, but have no trace of the genius of the great master.

A Saint Margaret painted by Titian in 1552 is in the Madrid Museum; it was sent to Philip of Spain. It represents a fair, beautiful, young maiden, who holds a cross before a dragon about to emerge from a cavern.

Niccolo Poussin painted an original conception of Saint Margaret, now in the Gallery of Turin. The saint kneels on the dragon while two angels crown her. The crown distinguishes Saint Margaret from Saint Martha, who is represented with a cross and a dragon.

Besides these celebrated Virgin Patronesses there are the so-called Great Virgins of the Latin Church, the difference between them being that, while the Patronesses are honoured universally, the veneration of Saint Cecilia, Saint Agnes, Saint Agatha, and Saint Lucia is confined almost entirely to the Western or Latin Church.

The legend of Saint Cecilia can, however, be traced back to the third century, the time when she is believed to have lived. It is impossible to separate the actual story of her life from the poetic and marvellous incidents which have been added to it, but it is true, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she lived in Rome, in the time of Alexander Severus, and was reared in the Christian faith from her infancy. She made a vow of celibacy and service to Christ; she excelled in music, wrote hymns, invented the organ, and sang with so heavenly a voice and manner, that it was said that angels were fain to listen to her and to sing with her.

When still very young she was married to Valerian, a young noble of high rank and great wealth.

Cecilia consented to this marriage in obedience to her parents, but beneath her bridal dress she wore a penitential robe, and determined, with God’s help, to retain her chastity. She converted Valerian to Christianity, and after his baptism he returned to Cecilia to find an angel with her, who had brought two crowns, made from the roses of Paradise, which he placed on the heads of the young husband and wife. These roses were fresh and fragrant, and invisible to all save the Christian believers.

The “Second Nonnes Tale” of Chaucer gives the legend of Saint Cecilia with but little variation from the accepted form.

Valerian prayed to the angel that his brother Tibertius might become a Christian, and this prayer being answered, Cecilia, with the two brothers, went about doing good to the poor, and made many converts. When this was known to the authorities, Valerian and Tibertius were put to death, and Cecilia, after great persecution, died from the effect of wounds and suffering.

At her request her home became a place for Christian worship. A church was built over it, and has been again and again rebuilt, yet it is believed that portions of the original house still exist, and that her bones repose in a silver shrine beneath the altar, near which is the celebrated statue of Saint Cecilia lying dead, by Stefano Maderno. This statue was made after the body of the saint was exhumed in 1599, and is intended to represent the appearance and attitude of the remains when her sarcophagus was opened; it is pathetic in its simplicity and repays examination by the visitor to Saint Cecilia-in-Trastevere.

In the apse is an ancient mosaic, dating from the early decades of the ninth cen- tury, which represents Saint Cecilia and Saint Valerian with a group of other saints, surrounding the Saviour, who gives them his benediction.

Saint Cecilia was not considered as the patroness of music jar excellence until the fifteenth century, and not until then were musical instruments seen in all pictures of this saint. She is easily recognised by these, but her other attributes – roses, an attending angel, and a palm – belong also to Saint Dorothea, which makes the musical instruments a necessity in representations of Saint Cecilia.

'The Ecstasy of Saint Cecilia', by Raphael
It is not possible to speak of any other representation of this saint before that by Raphael in the Bologna Gallery, and of this picture and its meaning Passavant’s description is most interesting. He says:

A sudden inspiration called forth this picture, and it was in one of his most inspired moments that the master composed this exquisite painting. Everything in it speaks of faith and zeal. All the noble countenances bear the divine stamp, and yet, whatever may be the exultation of their souls, their attitudes are full of the calmest majesty.

Saint Paul, leaning on a naked sword, represents knowledge and wisdom, whilst on the other side Saint John shows the full blessing of divine love. Mary Magdalene, holding a vase of perfumes, is opposite to Saint Paul, as if to indicate that, if the repentance of the apostle, and his unwearied activity in the Church, obtained forgiveness for him for his former sins, she also had been forgiven much because she had loved much. And as Saint Paul, converted through a vision, is by the side of the loving Saint John, so Saint Augustine, also converted to the faith of Christ, is by the side of the Magdalene.

Surrounded by these great and touching figures, Saint Cecilia is standing, radiant with ecstasy, listening to the divine harmonies sung by the angels in heaven. The earthly organ falls from her hands, she trembles with holy enthusiasm, and her soul seems longing to flyaway to the heavenly country.

The beauty of the style, and the depth of expression are not the only things that render this a masterpiece; but the combination of these with harmony, richness, and powerful colouring. The colouring responds to the poetry of the subject; it carries us into an ethereal and mysterious atmosphere. No colourist has ever equalled this splendour, which we may call almost divine. Titian’s Assumption excites feelings of joyfulness, Correggio’s Saint Jerome a gentle emotion, but Raphael’s Saint Cecilia brings us nearer to heaven.

A goodly number of both Italian and German masters have put their ideal of Saint Cecilia on canvas; Domenichino painted six single figures of her as a patron saint; Moretto, two, while Garofalo, Giulio Campi, and others represented her according to their conceptions.

The angel crowning Cecilia and Valerian and the death of Cecilia are the historical scenes most frequently represented singly, but several series illustrative of her life have been painted. Two scenes from such a series, believed to be the work of Byzantine masters in the ninth century, are in the church in Rome, above mentioned. They are at the right of the high altar, and are most interesting examples of their school and era.

A very early series, by Cimabue, is in the Academy of Florence. The picture of the saint enthroned was originally an altar-piece, and is surrounded by eight small pictures of scenes in her life. A series by Francia and Lorenzo Costa, in Bologna, is very much injured. They were originally in a chapel, but through a succession of changes they are now in a passage between two streets. The little that remains of them is most interesting and proves them to have been very beautiful. Five scenes from a series by Pinturicchio are in the Berlin Gallery.

Domenichino, in addition to the single figures already mentioned, executed four historical scenes in a chapel of Saint Cecilia, in the Church of San Luigi de’ Francesi, in Rome. The subjects here are the Angel offering the Crowns, Cecilia’s contempt for Idols, her Distribution of her clothes among the poor, her Death and Apotheosis, which last is on the ceiling. There is much to admire in these works, and, alas! much that is incongruous with the subjects and the place for which they were painted. They are, however, good examples of the work of Domenichino, whose treatment was frequently theatrical. He often allowed the details to detract from the principal motive of his picture; for example, in the scene in which the saint distributes her goods to the poor, it is not Cecilia who holds the attention, but the group of poor people below who struggle for the gifts thrown from the balcony above, and who are most powerfully represented. In the scene of the death, where the wounded saint is most attractive and pathetic, two women wiping up her blood are exasperating in their distraction of one’s thoughts and in the repulsiveness of their occupation. Such details are better omitted, but Domenichino was not sensitive himself, nor did he consider this quality in others, but he was the best artist of the Caracci school and admirable in his expression and colour. The Apotheosis of Saint Cecilia is lovely in design; the saint is borne to heaven by angels who also carry her organ, palm, sword, and crown.

'Saint Agnes', by Alonzo CanoWe have more historical authority for the story of Saint Agnes than exists in many cases. Saint Jerome wrote of her as being greatly venerated in his day, and her legend is one of the oldest saintly narratives. The principal facts are that Saint Agnes lived in Rome and was a most beautiful Christian maiden; when still very young she vowed never to marry. A young nobleman, who sought her hand, when rejected became ill unto death, so great was his disappointment. When his father, the Prefect Sempronius, learned the truth, he used every possible effort to persuade Agnes to reconsider her refusal, and when she would not, the prefect became angry and commanded Agnes to be stripped of her clothing and exposed to all possible disgrace. When this was done, her already abundant hair so increased as to perfectly veil her person. Her persecutors were so confounded by this miracle that they locked her in a room alone, and when she prayed she beheld a shining garment before her, in which she clothed herself.

Then her lover, hoping that she would now listen to his pleading, came into the chamber, which was illumined with heavenly light, and so soon as he entered he was struck with blindness and fell down in convulsions, and Agnes, being filled with compassion, prayed for his restoration, which prayer was speedily answered.

Sempronius, on beholding this, would have saved the maiden from further sorrow, but the people declared that she was a sorceress, and when she protested that she was simply a Christian maiden, they piled fagots around her, and set them on fire. But the flames did her no harm, while some of her tormentors were slain by them. She at length met her death by the sword, and her remains were entombed in a cemetery, to which the Christians constantly went to pray at her grave.

At length, as her parents and friends were paying their devotions at her tomb, she appeared to them in a glorified form, and beside her was a lamb of a whiteness purer than snow. Agnes assured her friends of her perfect happiness, and again vanished, and from this time they no more mourned her death, but rejoiced at her safety.

In the most ancient representations of Saint Agnes the lamb is not present, but I know of no picture of importance from which it is absent. Titian’s picture, in the Louvre, .shows the saint in the act of presenting her martyr’s palm to Christ. In the Academy of Venice a picture by Veronese represents the saint, as the patroness of celibacy, in the act of presenting a young nun to the Madonna, and as the patron of maidens Saint Agnes is especially lovely; these works are rich in the glorious Venetian colouring.

When we consider the story of Saint Agnes it seems like madness in Andrea del Sarto to have painted a portrait of his wife, who was the opposite of Agnes in character, as the lovely maiden saint; the picture in the Cathedral of Pisa is, however, an exquisite work. The saint is seated and embraces the lamb with her left hand, while she raises the martyr’s palm with the right, and gazes upward with an expression of peaceful trust. The veil encircles the head within the aureole; the violet and amber of the drapery are charming, and the whole picture is admirable.

The Martyrdom of Saint Agnes, by Domenichino, now in the Bologna Gallery, is a distressing picture, the moment represented being that in which a brutal executioner seizes her hair, and with it draws her head back, and plunges a sword into her bosom; when observing it one is indignant that the spectators do not fly from such a scene, and that the angels above do not throw down their musical instruments and weep, rather than utter sweet sounds so calmly as they seem to be doing.

In delightful contrast is Tintoretto’s picture of the same subject in the Church of Santa Maria dell’ Orto, Venice. Here the sweet girl saint, in pure white drapery, kneels at the summit of a flight of steps, awaiting the stroke of the executioner. It is most dramatic in design and effect, and as attractive as a picture of this especial moment could be made.

The story of Saint Agatha is so painful, and her martyrdom included such horrors, that it is not necessary to recount them. The picture by Sebastian del Piombo, in the Pitti, and others which represent the tearing of the breasts, are too revolting for description; in truth, I could never so study them as to be able to write of them. In a few cases the saint is seen bound to a cross or column, nude to the waist, and the executioners with their pincers standing by.

The symbols of Saint Agatha are the palm, cross, and shears; she is sometimes holding a salver on which is a female breast; she wears a long veil and is of dignified and even majestic bearing. She is a protector against fire and all diseases of the breast, and patroness of Malta and Catania.

Saint Lucia is patroness of Syracuse, Sicily, and of the labouring poor, and a protector against diseases of the eye. One legend of her life and death makes no mention of her eyes, but another, which has been followed by artists, relates that, as a young man whose love she had rejected declared that he was bewitched by her eyes, she took them out and sent them to her lover, begging that, as he now had what he had so much desired, he would henceforth leave her in peace. But God did not permit Lucia to remain sightless, and so restored her eyes that they were more beautiful than before.

'Saint Lucia', by Carlo DolciIn devotional pictures, Saint Lucia is frequently seen carrying her eyes on a salver, but far more beautiful is the picture of this saint richly dressed, and bearing a lamp in one hand – the symbol of celestial light and wisdom – and the palm in the other; by this symbol the meaning of her name, light, is far more artistically indicated. After her persecutions, Lucia died from a wound in her throat from a poniard or. sword, as appears in a picture in the Uffizi, by Carlo Dolci.

A Saint Lucia by Baroccio is in the Louvre, in which the saint presents her palm to the Madonna, while an attendant angel bears her eyes. Palma painted the apotheosis of Saint Lucia, in the church in Venice which is dedicated to her. It represents the saint as borne to heaven in a glory of angels, one of them carrying her eyes.

This saint should be represented as illuminated with heavenly light, – with wisdom and sweetness, as Dante speaks of her, “Lucia, of all cruelty the foe.” Saint Lucia is dear to the people of Sicily, and to Naples especially, and one cannot be long in Southern Italy without becoming familiar with her; she is loved for her purity and gentleness, such as Fra Angelico painted in his picture now in the Academy of Siena.