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Audio Guide - Adult

The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, ca. 1540

Artist: Girolamo Romanino, Italian (Brescian-Venetian School), ca. 1484 - after 1560

Medium: Oil on canvas

Painting: 60 1/4 x 81 3/4 in. (153 x 207.6 cm)
Frame: 75 x 96 1/4 in. (190.5 x 244.5 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Object Number: 61.202

On View

Signori Errizzo-Maffei, Brescia, as early as 1760 until 1871; Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bt. (1817-1901), Richmond, Surrey, England; Sir Frederick Lucas Cook 2nd Bt. (1844-1920); Sir Herbert Frederick Cook, 3nd Bt (1868-1939); Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th Bt (1907-1978); Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878-1955), Rome-Florence, Nov. 7, 1948; Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York, New York, 1961

In the foreground of the painting the Virgin and Child with Saint Catherine of Alexandria appear in a scene known as The Mystic Marriage. Accompanying the main figures are Saint Lawrence, leaning against a marble pillar to the left; Saint Ursula, holding a standard; and Saint Angela Merici, wearing a Franciscan habit and kneeling in prayer on the right. The castle of Brescia can be seen in the background. With the inclusion of Saint Ursula, to whom Angela Merici dedicated her order of Ursulines, and Saint Catherine, this painting most likely commemorates the foundation of the Company of Saint Ursula by Saint Angela Merici on November 25, 1535 (the feast day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria). Saint Lawrence was the namesake of Lorenzo Muzio, the vicar general of Brescia, who approved the Ursuline Order. Angela Merici’s death in 1540 probably inspired the commission for Romanino’s The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine.


The figures in the painting are dignified and harmoniously arranged, demonstrating an expressionistic realism typical of Romanino’s work. The figures appear to interact, creating a strong sense of religious intimacy that makes The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine emotionally compelling. The painting’s beautiful colors are warm and varied, and the rendering of highlights on the silk drapery is particularly skillful. The detail and rich color of the gowns of Saint Catherine and Mary, the human qualities of the figures, the large scale of the canvas, and the use of soft, aerial perspective are all typically Venetian.


Born in Brescia, Romanino lived his whole life in northern Italy, working in Padua, Mantua, and Brescia, among other cities. He was primarily influenced by the Venetian sensitivity to the effects of color and light, represented principally by Giorgione, Lorenzo Lotto, and Titian. He combined these qualities with elements of Lombard painting, particularly realism, expressiveness, and dramatic intensity. The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine is considered one of Romanino’s most outstanding works due to its stylistic, historical, and spiritual importance.