Beheading of St. Catherine (1506) by Albrecht Altdorfer

Beheading of St. Catherine - Albrecht Altdorfer - 1506

Artwork Information

TitleBeheading of St. Catherine
ArtistAlbrecht Altdorfer
Dimensions55.3 x 35.2 cm
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationKunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

About Beheading of St. Catherine

The artwork titled “Beheading of St. Catherine” is a religious painting by Albrecht Altdorfer, created in 1506. Altdorfer was an artist associated with the Northern Renaissance, an era renowned for its detailed and expressive religious narratives. This piece is part of the extensive collection housed at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria, and it measures 55.3 cm in height and 35.2 cm in width.

In the artwork, the scene of martyrdom is depicted with Saint Catherine presented in a state of serene submission, kneeling with her hands crossed over her chest. Her head is tilted modestly to one side, exhibiting a calm, poised demeanor in the face of death. The executioner, clad in boldly striped garments, looms over her, wielding a large sword, ready to strike. To Catherine’s right is a wheel—her initial intended instrument of torture—which lies broken, a symbol of her divine intervention and subsequent escape from that particular torture.

A figure witnessing the scene is partially visible on the right edge, cloaked in garment colors that sharply contrast with the natural and earthly tones that dominate the rest of the painting. The landscape is characterized by a wild, almost untamed nature, with rugged trees and craggy rocks, which adds a sense of dramatic tension to the scene. The light source illuminates the scene from above, casting divine light upon Catherine, highlighting her as the focal point of the composition. This painting is an exemplar of the Northern Renaissance’s intricate attention to detail and its capacity to convey deep spiritual narratives through art.

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