Tintoretto, The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria, with Doge Francesco Donato in Adoration

The Ducal Palace, Venice

Francesco Donato was Doge of Venice from 1545 to 1553, during a period of prosperity to which the troubled Venetians of 1584 could look back with nostalgia. This may explain the contrast between the angels above him bearing gifts of fruit and the hooded figure behind him perhaps representing the plague of 1575-7, which killed 50,000 people.

Even the child's penis, often exposed to view in the early years of the century but much less so by the 1580's, may hark back to happier and more innocent times. The artist draws attention to this feature by echoing the pose and the nakedness in the angel in the upper left corner.

St. Catherine, with her crown and wheel, receives the wedding ring from the Christ Child while on the right St. Mark presents the kneeling Doge to the saintly group. The Doge's prayers are seconded by his namesake Francis of Assisi on the far right (stigmata on his hands). In the background, the tower of St. Mark's rises above the city as gondolas ply the Canale di San Marco.

Judging from the expanse of water and the position of the tower, the island in the background should be Venice's Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore. The building on the right with the statues would thus be near the place where Santa Maria della Salute was built in the following century.

It is not clear whether the figure on the far left is intended as an allegory or as another saint.

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Read more about images of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Mark.

Photographed at the palace by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.