The present painting by Alessandro Allori is after a cartoon by Bronzino, which is recorded by Vasari as the design for a late work painted for his great friend Don Silvano Razzi (Le Vite, ed. Milanesi, VII, p. 603). Bronzino's prototype cannot be traced with certainty but has long been considered to be the Saint Catherine at Corsham Court, Wiltshire (see E. Baccheschi, L'opera completa del Bronzino, Milan, 1973, p. 109, no. 167). The composition of that picture, repeated here, shows the close association between Allori and his master Bronzino in the third quarter of the sixteenth century.
Allori's Saint Catherine can be dated to the 1570s, repeating motifs found in several of his important commissions of that period. The tight fitting long-sleeved bodice worn by the Saint, which emphasizes her muscular arm, also appears in his depiction of Mary in the Deposition of 1571, painted for the Compagnia del Gesú (Santa Croce, Florence) and again in the altarpiece, Virgin and Child with Saints (ex-Santa Maria Nuova, now, Accademia, Florence), dated 1575. The elongated tip of the thumb is also typical of Allori at this time as seen in another Deposition (San Egidio, Florence). The facial type of this female saint can also be found in the works of these years.
We are grateful to Professor Elizabeth Pilliod for her assistance in cataloguing this lot and for confirming the attribution to Allori, upon first-hand inspection of the work (verbal communication, 18 April 2010).