(b. 1518, Venezia, d. 1594, Venezia)

The Miracle of St Agnes

c. 1577
Oil on canvas, 400 x 200 cm
Madonna dell'Orto, Venice

The fifteen-year-old Agnes rejected the advances of Licinius, son of the Roman prefect, on the grounds that she was the bride of Christ, and was thereupon taken away to a brothel. When Licinius came with his companions to rape her, God struck him dead. At the pleas of the prefect - shown here clad in majestic red - Agnes brought him back to life through her prayers, but was then executed as a witch. The gang rape of a prostitute, unfortunately, was not unknown in Venice: known as trentuno ("thirty-one") it was popular among the sons of patricians as a way of "punishing" insubordinate courtesans.

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