MASOLINO da Panicale
(b. 1383, Panicale, d. 1447, Firenze)

St Catherine Disputing with Scholars

Castiglione Chapel, San Clemente, Rome

The picture shows the scenes St Catherine Disputing with Scholars and Martyrdom of the Scholars on the lower register of the left-hand wall. This wall is divided into three tall rectangular panels, but presents five different episodes. Utilizing the middle distance and background as the settings for scenes that follow and are directly related to the events depicted in the foreground, the painter managed to integrate additional episodes into his pictures without compromising their formal integrity as compositions. He does so most creatively in the left-hand section of the picture, where Catherine is seen disputing with scholars summoned by the emperor.

The scene is set in a narrow, box-like room, with the emperor seated on his throne in front of the back wall and the scholars on the benches along the two side walls. Catherine stands in the centre, her gesture indicating that she is just making a point. A "picture window" on the right-hand wall allows us to look out at another scene, where the scholars, converted by the saint's words, are being put to the fire, but their bodies are unharmed by the flames.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.