Saint Catherine

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (Greek (active in Spain), 1541–1614)


100.5 x 63.8 cm (39 9/16 x 25 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

Not On View





The legendary Saint Catherine was widely renowned for her learning and wisdom, so much so that the Roman emperor Maxentius wanted her to be his wife. Her Christian faith was so strong that she refused the pagan ruler; in retaliation, he ordered that she be tortured. Catherine was bound to a spiked wheel, but freed when a thunderbolt from heaven shattered it. In this painting, she displays the martyr’s palm while resting her left arm on a fragment of the wheel; her right hand holds the sword with which she was ultimately beheaded.


By 1908 until about 1936, Marqués de Alós, Castillo de Balsareny, Barcelona [see note 1]. November, 1958, sold by Tomás Harris, London, to Pinakos, Inc. and M. Knoedler and Co., New York (Knoedler stock no. A7109); February, 1959, sold by Knoedler to Mrs. Charles S. Payson, Manhasset, NY; January, 1960, returned by Mrs. Payson to Pinakos and Knoedler (stock no. A7452) [see note 2]; February, 1960, sold by Knoedler to William A. Coolidge (b. 1901 - d. 1992), Topsfield and Cambridge, MA [see note 3]; 1993, bequest of William A. Coolidge to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 27, 1993)

[1] According to Harold E. Wethey, El Greco and His School, vol. 2, Catalogue Raisonné (Princeton, 1962), p. 111, cat. no. 201. First published by Manuel B. Cossio, El Greco (Madrid, 1908), p. 553, cat. no. 17. [2] Information about Knoedler's purchases and sales of the painting was provided in a letter from Knoedler to the MFA (September 3, 1991). [3] First lent to the MFA on December 27, 1962 (loan no. 200.62).

Credit Line

Bequest of William A. Coolidge