St. Catherine and the executioner (1517) by Albrecht Durer

St. Catherine and the executioner - Albrecht Durer - 1517

Artwork Information

TitleSt. Catherine and the executioner
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationUffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

About St. Catherine and the executioner

“St. Catherine and the Executioner” is a religious painting created by Albrecht Durer in 1517. It is a notable artwork from the Northern Renaissance period and is part of the collection at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. This work, like many from the era, explores religious themes, indicative of the movement’s interest in conveying spiritual narratives with emotional depth and attention to detail.

The artwork portrays the figure of St. Catherine in the grip of an executioner. St. Catherine, who is central to the composition, appears calm, perhaps in prayer, amidst her imminent peril. She is clothed in drapery that is rendered with care to depict the weight and texture of the fabric. The executioner is shown behind her, his muscular form looming as he raises a sword, preparing to carry out the act of execution.

The facial expressions are rendered with a high level of detail; St. Catherine’s face communicates serenity and resignation, while the executioner’s face is contorted into a grimace, reflecting the brute force of his role. The swirling hair and beard of the executioner contrast with the smooth and composed features of St. Catherine. The image captures a moment of dramatic tension, rendered in Durer’s distinctive style, which includes fine line work and attention to detail, typical of his skill as an engraver and artist. Despite the stillness of the figures, there is a sense of movement, perhaps due to the positioning of the limbs and the sense of action suggested by the raised sword.

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