(b. 1814, Kiel, d. 1882, Paris)

St Catherine of Alexandria

Oil on canvas, 152 x 262 cm
Musée Fabre, Montpellier

A young collector from Montpellier, François Sabatier, bought from the German-born Henri Lehmann this large picture of the martyred St Catherine of Alexandria carried to her tomb by flying angels, painted in Rome in 1839. He was apparently as intrigued by the picture's combination of extreme sentiment and aesthetic primitivism, based on early Italian painting, as by its imagery of Christian martyrdom. In any case, the freely floating forms of the saint and her celestial escort suggest — not for the first time in a scene of death and transfiguration - an almost sensual ecstasy.