CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)

Beheading of St Catherine

Oil and tempera on limewood, 85 x 58 cm
Archbishop's Palace, Kromeriz

The two paintings in Kromeriz, depicting the beheading of John the Baptist and St Catherine, probably formed the two side wings of a triptych. They were commissioned by Stanislaus Thurzó (1470-1540) a patrician from Upper Hungary, the Bishop of Olmütz (Olomouc). These paintings are regarded as among Cranach's best works from the 1510s. There are several studio replicas and seventeenth-century copies of both panels.

St Catherine kneels in the centre of the foreground wearing a black dress with a gold brocade collar. The henchman stands behind her to the right and removes her long blond curls from the nape of her neck. A group of figures stands in the middle distance on the right and a further group with two men on horseback is positioned in the middle distance on the left. Another scene from the legend of St Catherine is illustrated in the background. It depicts the storm destroying the wheel on which the saint was to be martyred.