Rossetti, Dante Gabriel - Saint Catherine 1857
Type of Spiritual Experience
The model was his sister Christina. A lot of symbolism is built into this picture.
This painting shows a medieval artist in his studio painting a model posing as St Catherine, and we can hypothesise that it may represent Rossetti painting his sister. She holds a palm branch and a wheel. In the allegory the wheel was the instrument of torture on which she was killed, but the wheel here has a symbolic meaning.
Rossetti was hinting that his sister was consigned to the rim of the wheel, condemned as it were to live out the cycles of birth and death, but by doing this he also hints at the idea that he was determined not to have to undergo this. The easel and canvas that screen him from her are symbolically indicating he wants to leave the cycle of reincarnation.