36. Girolamo Genga

Urbino circa 1476 – 1551 Urbino

The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine

This is a preparatory study for The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine (Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Barberini, Rome), a painting which betrays the influence of Raphael, with whom Genga had come into contact in Perugino’s work­shop. In this sheet, Genga pays particular attention to the spatiality of the composition. In this drawing, the artist was probably working from memory rather than from life, using experience and imagination as his guides. Evidence for this can be found in the incoherent spatial relationship between the figures and certain anatomical imprecisions, the outcome of imagined rather than observed nudity. In this fascinating sheet, so revealing of Genga’s thought pro­cesses as he worked on the conception of a painting, we can also note the pentimento by which he altered the orien­tation and tilt of the Virgin’s head. Mary’s gaze was origi­nally directed at St Catherine, but now focuses on her own hand guiding the young woman’s arm towards Jesus, who is slipping a ring on her finger. This gesture embodies the symbolic communion between the holy martyr and the sacred person of Christ.