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St Eulalia was martyred in the fourth century, aged twelve, for refusing to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. Two executioners tore her body with iron hooks, and held flames to her breasts and sides until she was suffocated by the smoke. According to the account given by the Spanish poet Prudentius, which Waterhouse quoted in the exhibition catalogue, a white dove emerged from Eulalia’s mouth at the moment of her death and a miraculous fall of snow descended. This composition is very daring. The figure is dramatically foreshortened, and the snow contrasts with Eulalia’s naked flesh.

July 2007