LOTTO, Lorenzo
(b. ca. 1480, Venezia, d. 1556, Loreto)

Mystic Marriage of St Catherine

1524
Oil on canvas, 98 x 115 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

The saints surrounding the Madonna are Jerome, George, Sebastian (at the left), Catherine, Anthony the Abbot, Nicholas of Bari (at the right).

Lotto executed this painting in Bergamo for Marsilio Cassotti, signing it on the step of the throne in an inscription that reads "Laur.tus Lotus 1524". It was part of the collection housed at the Quirinal Palace, where it was noted by Cavalcaselle and Morelli, up until around 1912 when it passed to the Galleria Corsini. Within Lotto's career, this picture belongs to the last part of the period that he spent working in Bergamo. A direct comparison can be made with the almost contemporary Mystic Marriage of St Catherine at the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, a picture signed and dated to 1523. In both works Lotto attains a compositional equilibrium through the interlinking of the figures. In the picture in Rome, the circular motion around the fulcrum of the Madonna is also underscored by seemingly improvisational light reflections which form a pattern of diffusion that centres on the figure of the Virgin.

The medallion hanging from Saint Catherine's belt is typical of Lotto's world of emblematic symbols. Its winged putto is a recurring motif in the artist's work. Lotto employed a similar putto in his 1525 inlay designs for the steps of the choir entrance at Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, accompanied by the motto "Nosce te ipsum". The motif and motto appear again in Lotto's portrait of an anonymous Thirty-seven year old man (Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome), though without the same degree of detail evident in the Mystic Marriage. The theme of wisdom and justice, symbolically communicated by the putto with his feet resting on a balance, is well adapted to this learned saint. Catherine is also portrayed with a richness of clothing and jewels which, though normal to her iconography, are distinctive in the refined attention with which the artist treats them. Lotto generally requested additional compensation for such intricate work.