Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with the Defeated Emperor
Probably the left wing of a triptych
Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy, Netherlandish (active Bruges), active c. 1470 - c. 1500
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Saint Catherine of Alexandria, here shown reading a book, was the patron saint of students and scholars. Because she refused to relinquish her faith under torture, she was revered in northern Europe during the Renaissance as a powerful helper for penitents in times of need. The sword she holds symbolizes her martyrdom and death by decapitation under the pagan emperor Maximinus. She stands victoriously over the emperor, secure in her eternal, spiritual life. The artist locates her triumph in his hometown of Bruges, depicted in the background, rather than in Catherine's native Alexandria.