Dante Gabriel Rossetti, St. Catherine (1857)
DGR, St. Catherine


Dante Gabriel Rossetti's St. Catherine is a painting (oil on canvas) now housed at Tate Britain. The model for the painting was Elizabeth Siddal. John Ruskin commissioned the work, but later relinquished it. The iconographical significance of St. Catherine seems to have held a special interest for DGR. In 1849, he wrote a sonnet about her Mystic Marriage after seeing Memmling's famous painting in Bruges. This picture takes up St. Catherine's legend from a different angle, however, and specifically deals with her figural importance for the artist. The picture represents a Medieval painter working on a portrait of Catherine, who poses with her standard symbol, the wheel, in her left hand. "In the background, assistants prepare a cartoon of St. Sebastian" ( The Pre-Raphaelites 166), whose martyrdom is represented as rhyming with Catherine's. As with so many of DGR's works that deal with the lives of the saints, Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend is an implicit textual presence in this picture. According to the legend, the Emperor Maxentius fell in love with Catherine after her mystic marriage to Christ. When she spurned the emperor's offer of marriage, he had her tortured and killed, broken on a wheel that later became her sacred emblem. St. Catherine was "The only oil picture painted by Rossetti between 1853 and 1858" (Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 50, no. 89).

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Works Cited

The Pre-Raphaelites: A Catalogue for the Tate Exhibition. Tate Gallery/Penguin Books, 1984.

Surtees, Virginia. Painting and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Catalogue Raisonné. vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1971.

How to Cite this Web Page (MLA format)

McGann, Jerome. "Dante Gabriel Rossetti, St. Catherine (1857)." Omnibus Edition of "In an Artist's Studio. Eds. Pamela Buck, Dino Franco Felluga, Nicole Fluhr, Dominique Gracia, Jerome McGann, Melissa Merte, and Herbert F. Tucker. The COVE: The Central Online Victorian Educator, covecollective.org. [Here, add your last date of access to The COVE].

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  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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