St. Martha, St. Apollonia, St. Lucy, and St. Agatha
Andrea da Saronno (sculpting) and Alberto da Lodi (painting and gilding)
St. Martha , St. Agatha , St. Lucy , St. Apollonia , Dragon
These painted wood sculptures of female saints stand far above the ground in niches that frame the chapels of the Last Supper and of the Lamentation in the Santuario della Beata Maria Vergine dei Miracoli in Saronno. St. Martha is shown holding a vessel of Holy Water, which she sprinkles with an aspergillium in her other hand, standing over a dragon. It was believed that St. Martha moved to France, where she sprinkled holy water on a dragon, thus taming it. St. Apollonia, the patron saint of dentists, was tortured by having her teeth pulled and so if shown with a pair of pliers and a martyr's palm. St. Lucy is generally shown carrying her eyes (as she is said to have removed them when a man admired them, only to have them miraculously restored), and sometimes a martyr's palm, a dagger, or a lamp, but here she seems to hold a stick, which is puzzling. St. Agatha, who was tortured by having her breasts removed, holds her breasts on a platter with one hand and the martyr's palm with the other. Andrea da Saronno sculpted the wood in 1527-8, and Alberto da Lodi painted and gilded the figures in 1529. (It was standard practice for polychrome sculptures to be collaborative works, sculpted by a sculptor, and then painted and gilded by someone who also painted on flat surfaces.) The rays that form halos were surely added later, and these sculptures were probably repainted multiple times over the centuries, as others were in the same church. They did not appear to have undergone restoration when these photographs were taken in 2018, and so the polychromy visible here is likely later repaint. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.