have always loved this portrait of St. Catherine of Alexandria by Lorenzo Lotto, painted in 1522. Her intelligent gaze is in keeping with her reputation for theological brilliance. Lotto managed to communicate her enigmatic confidence by placing her centrally in the composition and cocking her head to one side. The red dress flames at us against the dark backgroundreminding us of her martyrdom.
Notice how her hands are demurely placed so as to reveal a mystical wedding ring on one hand and the martyr’s palm held like a scholar’s quill pen in the other. The mantle about her shoulders delicately drapes the spiked wheel on which she was condemned to be tortured.
My favorite detail of this painting is the strand of pearls loops on the points of her crown. Although her works in this life were as so many pearls before swine, she was happy to cast them from her in order to obtain the pearl of great price.