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Francesco Vanni

(1563–1610, Siena)

The Stigmatisation of Saint Catherine of Siena. Etching. 11.9 x 7.7 cm. Circa 1595. Bartsch 2 I (of II).

Francesco Vanni’s printed oeuvre comprises just three etchings and it is no coincidence that one of them depicts the stigmatisation of Saint Catherine, since this mystic and doctor of the Church came from Vanni’s native city of Siena, where she was specially venerated as a local saint. The intimate scene is full of emotional intensity and its small size in no way detracts from its remarkable presence. Vanni’s consummate etching technique is light, brisk and varied, its spontaneous nature having all the qualities of a painter’s etching.

The scene depicts the dramatic culmination in which the saint receives the stigmata in a state of religious ecstasy. The bright, flickering light emphasises the supernatural character of the occurrence. Tradition has it that Catherine’s stigmatisation took place in Pisa on Palm Sunday in 1375. The event sparked a theological controversy with the Franciscans maintaining that no person other than the founder of their order had ever received the stigmata. The theological debate continued until 1630 when Catherine’s stigmatisation was finally officially recognised by the Church.

A very fine, harmonious early impression printed with delicate tone, with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in perfect condition. From the collection of Pierre Mariette, 1666 (Lugt 1788).

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