Pietro Novelli
The Crowning of St. Casimir

17th century
Oil on canvas, 131.9 x 90.2 in. (335 x 229 cm.)
Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, Palermo, Sicily
Originally in the church of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, Palermo

St. Casimir was the third son of King Casimir IV of Poland, his status expressed in this painting by the ermine trimming on his mantle. He is pictured without a beard, a token of both his virginity and his youth. He died in 1484 at the age of 23, but in his short life he impressed his contemporaries with his dedication to a chaste life and his promotion of Roman Catholic orthodoxy against schismatics and heretics. His feast is on March 4. He is remembered for his daily recitation of a hymn to Mary, Omni Die Dic Mariae, which afterwards came to be known as St. Casimir's Hymn (Butler, I, 478-79; Acta Sanctorum, March vol. 1, 337-51).

The painting presents not a secular crowning, since Casimir never became a king, but a recognition of his virtues and devotion to the Virgin Mary. The virtues are represented by the lilies in the hands of the putto in the upper right, and the devotion by Mary's crowning him with a garland of white roses. The choice of flowers may possibly reflect a couplet honoring the Virgin in the Omni Die Dic Mariae:

Quam elegit Rex, qui regit & creavit omnia
Gemma decens, rosa recens, castitatis lilium

"The King who rules and created all chose you
O comely gem, fresh rose, lily of chastity"
(Acta Sanctorum, ibid., 357, my translation).

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