represented as the abode of a multitude of saints, many of
them identifiable, under the aegis of the Trinity. At the
top we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the dove
between and above the two male figures), surrounded by the
symbols of the four
evangelists. To their left and right the Virgin and
St. John the Baptist kneel in supplication as in Deësis images. To the
left and right of this grouping are the angels of the
heavenly choir (note the flute on the left and the harp on
In the space
beneath, "a little less than the angels" (Psalm 8:6), are
the saints. The museum's label identifies the four on the
lower left at the Doctors of the Church (Gregory I,
Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose). Reclining at the lower
right is St. Christopher
with his staff. In the story he was a giant, but to avoid
making him seem larger than the persons of the Trinity
Saraceni has placed him in the foreground, as if
perspective were the reason for his great size. Between
him and the Doctors is St.
George with his red-cross banner. The crowned woman
seen between the banner and Christopher's staff could be St. Catherine of Alexandria,
her palm-up gesture perhaps referring to her skill as a
debater with pagans. (Compare her gesture in a
fresco in Piacenza.)
Above her, with
his palm gesturing down, is St.
Peter (square beard) discussing something with St. Paul (with his sword).
Perhaps the figure at their back with the tablets is Moses, though he is usually
portrayed with a full head of hair.
the women saints to the left of Peter and Paul are two who
seem to suggest St. Cecilia. One of them plays the organ,
and the other resembles Raphael's
earlier portrait of the saint and has the same
upcast gaze. Also, the songbook in her hand is like those
to which Raphael's Cecilia is longingly casting her gaze.
Thus, the saint has realized her dream of taking her place
among the heavenly choir but is now looking up even
higher, to her God.
female figure to the right of (perhaps) Moses is a mystery
to me. She could be Eve, or (with her blonde
hair) Mary Magdalene, or any one of the
many female saints whose nakedness was exposed by pagan
tyrants (e.g. St. Eulalia
or St. Agnes) or by the
elements (as St. Mary of