José Gutiérrez de la Vega y Carrizo [attribution] St. Catherine of Alexandria

Inventory no.
second quarter of XIX century
129,7x104 cm. [oval]

Gutiérrez de la Vega was a well-known Romantic painter during the Elizabethan era. Born in Seville, he was trained at the Academy of Fine Arts of Santa Isabel since 1802, where he got the degrees of Doctor and deputy director. After spending some time in Cádiz (1828), in 1831 he had already settled in Madrid with a friend and also painter, Antonio María Esquivel. There he succeeded as a portrait artist. He was Honorary Academic of the San Fernando Royal Academy and teacher at its Primary School, being he appointed in 1840 as Elizabeth II's Honorary Chamber artist. He was also an outstanding religious painter, a genre where he repeated the forms of expression, composition and models of the great baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo' (Seville 1618-1682), who was so fashionable in Europe then (especially in The United Kingdom and France) and whom he copied and reinterpreted every so often. In this way, it is important to notice that the University's painting reminds that of St. Catherine (three quarter figure; canvas 124 x 92 cm) from the London R. Langton Duglas collection and painted by Murillo around 1650 (VALDIVIESO, Murillo, cat. 30, pages 86 and 283). The framing, the physiognomy, the feminine model, the gestures and the clothing are similar; the only difference is the sense of composition and the attributes: in the painting from Oviedo, the sword hilt and the broken gear wheel are shaped, whereas in Murillo's composition the beheading sword and the palm are held with the martyr's left hand; in both paintings, their left hand rests on their breast and a diadem or a crown encircle their head.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, whose festivity is on the 25th November, is the patron saint of the University of Oviedo and her worship and celebration appear in the old Statutes, enacted in 1607 (title X). Catherine of Alexandria was also the legendary saint of other universities such as the Paris Sorbonne University and its students. Likewise, she also held a post at the Recoletas School for orphan girls, another testamentary foundation founded by Archbishop Fernando de Valdés, from 1566, whose head office was contiguous to the university building which is nowadays the rector's office.

St. Catherine's election for these Valdesian councils could also be related to the history of the same Valdés lineage. Legend has it that when Mr. Diego Menéndez de Valdés, called The Brave ((† Oviedo, 1355) and whom all the Asturian Valdés descend from, went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he visited the convent of St. Catherine in the Mount Sinai, where he won his spurs, "and then he came back to Spain, added the saint's wheel to his arms and ordered that the Hermitage of St. Catherine be built in La Atalaya, in Gijón" (ALFONSO DE CARBALLO, Linajes asturianos, ed.1987, page 57). That "wheel" is the one from her martyrdom and, multiplied by ten, is the orle between the three bars in the shield of the Valdés lineage (AVILÉS, Armas y linajes de Asturias, ed. from 1956, pages 104-105).

Text, attribution and cataloguing: Dr. Javier González Santos

Bibliographical references
  • VV.AA. (1990) Patrimonio artístico de la Universidad de Oviedo. Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo.
  • VV.AA. (2004) Bienes culturales de la Universidad de Oviedo. Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo.
  • VV.AA. (2008) Tradición de Futuro. Cuatro siglos de historia de la Universidad de Oviedo. Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo.
Location on the mapUbicación de la obra en las instalaciones de la Universidad



  • Universidad de Oviedo
  • Campus de Excelencia Internacional