BELLIS, Antonio de
(b. ca. 1616, d. ca. 1656, Napoli)
St Catherine of Alexandria1640s
Oil on canvas, 104 x 78 cm
Saint Catherine, here depicted in close-up three-quarter length, presents all of de Bellis's stylistic characteristics: priority is given to the figure, shown frontally and with a fine turn of the head to her left, where a wheel - the instrument of martyrdom - is placed in the background. Seated against a small ledge at lower right, she makes a demonstrative gesture with her left hand, echoing her gaze towards a broken fragment of the wheel in the right corner.
Antonio De Bellis was at once a naturalist in the purest Neapolitan tradition and a talented colourist who succeeded in juxtaposing the most sophisticated tonalities in a genuine search for elegance. Here, the painter lends to Saint Catherine's martyrdom an elegance and pathos that lift it beyond excessive naturalism.