CRISTOFORO RONCALLI also called POMARANCIO
Pomarancio / Pisa 1552-Roma 1626
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
oil on canvas, 137×99 cm
Orchestrated with an elegant palette dominated by the bright reds and yellows of the garments, that stand out elegantly from the delicate grays and blues of the background and the delicate pink flesh tones, the painting shows Saint Catherine of Alexandria who is offered the palm of martyrdom by an angel. Conducted to the rack for having refused to worship the idols, the martyr, saved by divine intervention from having her flesh mauled by the wheel, is however to be decapitated.
Paradigmatic example of the art of the transition from the Sixteenth to the Seventeenth century, this canvas has been attributed by Giancarlo Sestieri to Cristoforo Roncalli, a Tuscan painter who worked for a long time in Rome. The expert recognizes the mastery rendition “characterized by the clarity of exposition typical of the Raphaelesque tradition” combined with a “solid plasticity” and with “a natural relationship with the human figure, probably the result of a direct observation of the novelties introduced by Caravaggio, even if in the form of the pictorial mediations of Baglione”, dating it to the final phase of his career, in the same period as the frescoes of the Sanctuary of Loreto which he completed in 1609. We may add other apt comparisons, as the frescoes decorating the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella of Rome, painted some years before, and especially the image of the self-same Saint Catherine and of Saint Cecilia, and above all a print featuring Saint Agnes, from a drawing by Roncalli, executed by Pieter de Jode and dated 1600, with the same view of the face, the same position of the legs, and the same classical architecture framing the scene to the left of this painting (see I.Chiappini di Sorio, Cristoforo Roncalli called the Pomarancio, Bergamo, 1983, p. 167, no. 1).