Together with St Florian (NG S 272), the painting St Catherineonce adorned one of the small chapels by the chancel in St Stephen’s Church in Štepanja Vas, Ljubljana. The central niche of the high altar was once occupied by Metzinger’s painting The Stoning of St Stephen, today lost, which was signed and dated 1744. On this basis, it is possible to date both paintings from the chancel chapels to around the same time as the image from the high altar.
Her eyes raised in prayer, the saint is shown dressed in an ermine-trimmed red cloak, to emphasise her royal origin. St Catherine of Alexandria was, in fact, the daughter of Costus, the pagan ruler of Alexandria, in Egypt. Above her, an angel holding a martyr’s palm is crowning her with a laurel wreath to symbolise her victory over death. Having refused a proposal of marriage from the emperor, Maxentius, and unwilling to offer sacrifices to idols, she was condemned to death by breaking on a wheel. At her touch, however, the wheel shattered and killed her torturers. She was put to death by sword. The wheel and the sword are both her attributes. St Catherine was both very beautiful and an intellectual and is therefore the patron saint of unmarried girls, librarians, philosophers, lawyers and scientists.