Supplementary Appendix 272.7

The Painting St. Catherine seated and reading (Ste. Cathérine assise et lisant)
in Söder Chateau Salon F (historical pieces)


This picture was no. 9 in “Salon F des Tableaux d’histoire” in Friedrich Moritz von Brabeck’s Catalogue de la Galerie de Soeder, par le propriétaire le Comte de Brabeck (S.l., s.n. 1806; Cassel 1808), xvi:



It is currently housed in the Residenzgalerie Salzburg, loan collection Schönborn-Buchheim, where it is attributed to Carlo Dolci; photo Ulrich Ghezzi Oberalm.

It is this picture that reminded Caroline of Auguste. See her letter to Schelling on 15–24 October 1800 (letter 272):

One picture by Guercino in particular, depicting a saint who completely forgets herself while reading a book, is the one I would most like to have from him, since I would like to have had Auguste painted thus. The saint is quite youthful and is dressed in secular clothes, while the form of her head, the plaits in her hair, and her celestial, virginal expression and her enthusiastic engagement in reading — the viewer would eventually imagine it really was her; never have you seen anything as graceful. Even the mere recollection stirs my heart anew. [Auguste: Otto Cramer Family Archives]


(1) Söder par S. S. Roland (=Charles Antoine de Saqui-Sannes) (Göttingen 1797) (in French), 102–3; German translation, Söder von S. S. Roland, aus dem Französischen ins Deutsche übersetzt von C[arl] G[ottlieb] Horstig, mit zwey malerischen Ansichten und einem Grundrisse von Söder, nebst dem Bildnisse des Freyherrn von Brabek (Leipzig 1799), 59:

In the painting of a St. Catherine reading, Guercino has portrayed the character of attentiveness with unsurpassable art. But I do not find it pleasing when an Italian makes do with a simple and rather frosty conception. Once he possesses sufficient genius, he must also fully engage it, must animate his paintings with it, must sense the influence of the all-vivifying climate. I would criticize here nothing other than the choice of the painter. The painting itself otherwise exhibits considerable merit.

(2) Friederich Wilhelm Basilius von Ramdohr, Beschreibung der Gemälde-Galerie des Freiherrn von Brabek zu Hildesheim mit kritischen Bemerkungen und einer Abhandlung über die Kunst[,] das Schöne in den Gemälden der niederländischen Schule zu sehen (Hannover 1792), 17–19:

The saint is reading in a book. She sits in a chair with an embroidered back. Her garment is of changeant, her shawl yellow. The book, which she holds with both hands, lies on a blue cushion with gold trim and gold-inlaid tassels. The table is covered by a red cloth. A crown sits behind the pillow on a yellow cloth the same color as the shawl. Behind the table stands the instrument of her martyrdom, the wheel. In the rear a pair of columns between which a curtain hangs.

One views the saint’s face almost in profile. It is not ideal beauty, and yet also not a portrait, but rather an invented head with the character of virginal demureness and innocence; more serious than pleasing, especially around the mouth, whose upper lip protrudes somewhat. The expression of attentiveness is quite true. The shoulder has been drawn incorrectly and is too far from the head. The hand is natural but not of beautiful form. The arm does not exhibit the svelte roundness usually constituting the charm of the female arm. At the elbow it is almost as thick as at the juncture with the hand. The folds are indefinite, and the material creased.

Accessories are quite diligently treated. The color is not monochromatic. The color in her face seems to have incurred damage, and in the half-shadow inclines toward grass-green, in complete shadow toward yellowish red. On the hands one notices a powerful application of colors that, however, are too chalk-white and pink to come across as completely true. The chiaroscuro is incomparable and extremely harmonious.

The value of this engaging picture resides especially in the choice of pleasing but not unnatural forms, in the grand harmony of colors, the excellent chiaroscuro, and the diligently and consciously rendered accessories.

I am utterly unable to determine who painted this piece. Some currently attribute it to Guido Reni, and yet I myself am so unpresumptuous in my assessment concerning the correct attribution that I cannot even reliably say that it is not by him. That said, drawing on my experience I find not the slightest trace of Guido’s brush here. He is normally quite cheeky, and paints with extraordinary sureness and facility especially in the treatment of hair, eyebrows, muscles, etc. Here the brush is, if not anxious, then at least quite concerned. The folds seem as little to belong to Guido as does the form of the hands and countenance, and I have yet to see evidence that he ever paid such minute attention to accessories as is here the case in the chair’s back and the book’s pages.

I would sooner maintain that the piece has something of Albano, Domenichino, and perhaps most of all Pietro da Cortona, though the coloring seems ill-suited to the latter. To be honest, I do not believe the piece is by an Italian at all, but rather by a foreigner who studied under the aforementioned masters in Rome, more specifically: by one of the older French painters.

One really must be extremely cautious in risking an attribution if a piece does not bear undeniable characteristics of a particular master’s style. I find it a rather strange principle to maintain that because a painting exhibits excellent features, it must necessarily come from a famous hand. How often have otherwise little-known artists produced quite excellent individual works! One need but recall the beautiful Descent from the Cross in St. Pietro di Montorio in Rome, whose painter has to this very moment still not been determined.