St Benedict, a sixth-century founder of monasticism, displays a text with the opening words of the Benedictine Rule, “Harken, O son, to the precepts of the master.”
The clearly organized color scheme makes it evident why Agnolo Gaddi, whose father had been a pupil of Giotto, was the most sought after painter in late fourteenth-century Florence. Virgin and Child are surrounded by the brightest colors in the painting, the reds and greens of the angels’ wings and robes. Then come the neutral whites of the two monks’ habits. Bracketing the entire design are the rose pink and lime green of the outer saints’ robes and attributes, which echo, in pastel tints, the pure colors of the center angels.
Catherine of Alexandria, a princess and scholar, wears a crown and carries a book. She stands upon a broken wheel with spikes, in reference to a torture from which she was miraculously rescued, and holds a palm frond to signify her triumph over death as a martyr.