OIL PAINTING: St. Margaret, c.1631
The painting St. Margaret by Zurbaran is probably a portrait of a lady dressed as shepherdess. The serpent is the attribute of the saint.
The apocryphal legend of the life and death of Margaret of Antioch was known in the western world as early as the 7th century. Cast out by her heathen father, she was martyred in the Diocletian persecution of Christians and decapitated. In the course of the centuries, more and more legends grew up around this popular martyr. Zurbaran has portrayed her with straw hat and staff, in the costume of a Spanish shepherdess. Behind her we see the dragon which she is said to have overcome with the sign of the cross. Completely inactive, with the Bible in her left hand and a woven shepherd's bag over her arm, she gazes at the spectator with a sweetly childish face. This painting of Zurbaran does not tell the turbulent episodes of her life, but shows a saintly woman revered in the home country of Zurbaran.