(b. 1472, Firenze, d. 1517, Pian' di Mugnone)

Mystic Marriage of St Catherine

Panel, 356 x 270 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

In his most productive period for public works Fra Bartolomeo's designs are distinguished by a basic clarity and emotional reticence. The most characteristic and fully realized of this series of altarpieces is the Mystic marriage of St Catherine, also known as the Pala Pitti, signed and dated 1512. Commissioned to replace Fra Bartolomeo's altarpiece sent to France in 1512 (now in the Louvre) it was painted for a side altar dedicated to St Catherine in the left nave of St Marco where a copy remains.

The central narrative is expanded by the addition of some thirteen laterally displaced saints in the sort of crowded design for which Fra Bartolomeo is well known. The regular, coherent placement of the large number of figures is made possible by the inherently clarifying properties of the perspective and the enveloping architecture.