American University
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St. Catherine of Alexandria as Preacher in Masolino's Castiglione Chapel

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posted on 2023-08-04, 09:18 authored by Sarah Froonjian

This thesis examines the Castiglione Chapel frescoes in the church of San Clemente in Rome. Commissioned by Cardinal Branda Castiglione and executed by Masolino da Panicale between 1428 and 1431, the chapel features a complex iconographic program. Notably, the figure of St. Catherine is given an unusually privileged location within the chapel compared to her male counterparts and is shown as an authoritative preacher rather than, conventionally, as a simply virgin martyr. The San Clemente fresco cycle discards scenes like St. Catherine’s mystic marriage to Christ in favor of moments from her vita, such as the Disputation, which emphasize her learnedness, eloquence, and agency as a preacher. This thesis will take up the question of this innovative iconography and its gendered relationship to the male patron, arguing that Branda Castiglione utilized the distinctive image of St. Catherine’s female authority to promote his own learnedness and political influence. In doing so, St. Catherine of Alexandria is considered within her hagiography, the history of female preaching, the papacy, and the life of Cardinal Castiglione.



American University


Degree Awarded: M.A. Art. American University