Benedetto Gennari
Elizabeth Panton, Later Lady Arundell of Wardour, as Saint Catherine 1689

Artwork details

Benedetto Gennari 1633–1715
Elizabeth Panton, Later Lady Arundell of Wardour, as Saint Catherine
Date 1689
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1250 x 1021 mm
frame: 1442 x 1200 x 75 mm
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the Patrons of British Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1994
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1650


The sitter, Elizabeth Panton (d.1700), was the eldest daughter of Colonel Thomas Panton, a member of Charles II's life-guards and foot-guards. Panton's success at gambling enabled him to buy property in Herefordshire and London's west end, where he built what is now Panton Street. In July 1681 Elizabeth, with her mother and brother, left England, claiming health reasons but in actuality to escape the persecution they faced as Roman Catholics. The exiled Catholic court of James II at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France became a natural focal point for English papists abroad. Gennari followed the Stuart court into exile in 1689, and his notebook records that this was the first work he produced from there.

Elizabeth Panton is portrayed, in a statement of her Catholicism, as St Catherine of Alexandria, holding a martyr's palm and the spiked wheel on which, according to legend, St Catherine's body was broken. This theme is seen in portraits of Charles II's queen, Catherine of Braganza, some twenty-five years earlier. It was a popular subject with English court sitters, even used by Lely in paintings of Charles's mistress, Barbara, Lady Castlemaine. Elizabeth returned to England in October 1690, presumably taking her portrait with her. In 1691 she married Henry, fifth Lord Arundell of Wardour. Gennari's combination of French and Italian influences sets him apart from his British contemporaries, and is exemplified in this portrait by the Italianate colouring and strong lighting.

Further reading:
Tabitha Barber, 'The Arundells of Wardour: Roman Catholic patrons of art in late seventeenth-century England', Apollo, vol.143, no.410, April 1996, pp.12-17, reproduced pl.6
Dwight C. Miller, 'Benedetto Gennari's Career at the Courts of Charles II and James II and a Newly Discovered Portrait of James II', Apollo, vol.117, no.251, Jan. 1983, pp.24-9, reproduced pl.8

Terry Riggs
October 1997