Lorenzo Lotto (Venice 1480 – Loreto 1557)
The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine with Saints
Oil on canvas
98 x 115 cm
The iconography of the Mystic Marriage derives from a medieval text describing Catherine of Alexandria’s conversion to Christianity. The text states that after being baptized, the young woman had a vision: in the sky, amid angels and saints, Mary appeared to her with on her lap the infant Jesus, who slipped a ring onto Catherine’s finger, so making her his bride.
Like most paintings of this subject, the three principal figures are seen surrounded by saints. However, compared to the traditional iconography depicting the bestowal of the ring, Lotto’s painting gives us a significant variant: Saint Catherine is already wearing the ring on her finger and receives a rose from the infant Jesus as the symbol of love.
This shift forward in the scene depicted, to a moment following the marriage, may be due to the commission for the work. It was painted for Marsilio Cassotti, a merchant of Bergamo, to furnish the bedroom shared with his wife Faustina Assonica. The young couple had married the previous year and on that occasion they had already been portrayed by Lorenzo Lotto, in a painting now in the Prado in Madrid.