The panel portrays a regal-looking young woman in a landscape featuring hills and a rare maritime view with distant vessels, a feature not commonly found in works by Santi. The character is generally referred to as a Saint queen martyr based on the few but explicit attributes she carries: the palm of martyrdom, a vial containing blood, and a crown.

Initially owned by a private collector, the artwork was acquired in 1882 by the Institute of Fine Arts of the Marche for 500 lire and later became part of the collections of the National Gallery of the Marche upon its establishment in 1912.

Egidio Calzini (1897) attributed it to Giovanni Santi, Adolfo Venturi (1913) considered it a youthful work by Raphael, while Bernard Berenson (1936) attributed it to Evangelista da Pian di Meleto. Subsequently, critics returned to crediting Raphael’s father.

From 1970, some of the critics have identified the young girl as Saint Margaret of Antioch, partly due to the flowers in the meadow initially believed to be daisies. A study of the vegetation depicted by Santi, published in 1999 by Filippo Piccoli, which identified the flowers as primroses, led Ranieri Varese (2004) to revise the interpretation. The primrose, being the first flower to bloom in spring, “carries auspicious meaning and signifies the renewal of nature, contrasting with the barren tree in the background.” Varese argued that the painting might have been commissioned with an “auspicious function,” intended for the room of a young girl entering life, and, “somewhat hesitantly,” proposed to identify the martyr as “Saint Ursula: a daughter of a king, preparing for marriage, associated with a sea voyage, and martyred in her youth.”

This private devotional artwork, with iconography and meanings not immediately obvious to most viewers, displays few of the attributes that typically characterize Saint Ursula, remembered for her beauty, regal attire, and her role as the protector of girls and scholars: the crown, the palm of martyrdom, a ship, although the painting features several. Missing are the banner with a red cross on a white background, signifying victory over death, the myriad virgins sheltered under her cloak, and the arrow, her most important attribute. It is with some hesitation that Varese’s theory can be supported, especially if one pays attention to the stinging nettle in the foreground, the same nettle that could symbolically prefigure, due to the stings it delivers, the arrow by which the saint was martyred at the hands of Attila.

The young girl, undeniably one of Santi’s most refined figures, has been compared to characters from the same artist, such as the muse Clio at the Corsini Gallery in Florence, or her twin, the handmaiden in the background of the Visitation of Fano. She also shares similarities in pose, drapery, and facial features with more Peruginesque figures by Santi, especially those in the fresco in the Tiranni Chapel at the Church of San Domenico in Cagli (Bernardini 2018). These figures can be dated to the very early 1490s, a timeline also valid for the examined painting, assuming Cecilia Prete’s interpretation (2018) is accurate.

Author: Giovanni Santi
Realization date: early 90s of the 15th century
Storage location: Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
Place of originUrbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
INV COD:D65
Dimensions: 48 x 37 cm
Technique: Panel

Author: Giovanni Santi
Realization date: early 90s of the 15th century
Storage location: Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
Place of originUrbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
INV COD:D65
Dimensions: 48 x 37 cm
Technique: Panel


The panel portrays a regal-looking young woman in a landscape featuring hills and a rare maritime view with distant vessels, a feature not commonly found in works by Santi. The character is generally referred to as a Saint queen martyr based on the few but explicit attributes she carries: the palm of martyrdom, a vial containing blood, and a crown.

Initially owned by a private collector, the artwork was acquired in 1882 by the Institute of Fine Arts of the Marche for 500 lire and later became part of the collections of the National Gallery of the Marche upon its establishment in 1912.

Egidio Calzini (1897) attributed it to Giovanni Santi, Adolfo Venturi (1913) considered it a youthful work by Raphael, while Bernard Berenson (1936) attributed it to Evangelista da Pian di Meleto. Subsequently, critics returned to crediting Raphael’s father.

From 1970, some of the critics have identified the young girl as Saint Margaret of Antioch, partly due to the flowers in the meadow initially believed to be daisies. A study of the vegetation depicted by Santi, published in 1999 by Filippo Piccoli, which identified the flowers as primroses, led Ranieri Varese (2004) to revise the interpretation. The primrose, being the first flower to bloom in spring, “carries auspicious meaning and signifies the renewal of nature, contrasting with the barren tree in the background.” Varese argued that the painting might have been commissioned with an “auspicious function,” intended for the room of a young girl entering life, and, “somewhat hesitantly,” proposed to identify the martyr as “Saint Ursula: a daughter of a king, preparing for marriage, associated with a sea voyage, and martyred in her youth.”

This private devotional artwork, with iconography and meanings not immediately obvious to most viewers, displays few of the attributes that typically characterize Saint Ursula, remembered for her beauty, regal attire, and her role as the protector of girls and scholars: the crown, the palm of martyrdom, a ship, although the painting features several. Missing are the banner with a red cross on a white background, signifying victory over death, the myriad virgins sheltered under her cloak, and the arrow, her most important attribute. It is with some hesitation that Varese’s theory can be supported, especially if one pays attention to the stinging nettle in the foreground, the same nettle that could symbolically prefigure, due to the stings it delivers, the arrow by which the saint was martyred at the hands of Attila.

The young girl, undeniably one of Santi’s most refined figures, has been compared to characters from the same artist, such as the muse Clio at the Corsini Gallery in Florence, or her twin, the handmaiden in the background of the Visitation of Fano. She also shares similarities in pose, drapery, and facial features with more Peruginesque figures by Santi, especially those in the fresco in the Tiranni Chapel at the Church of San Domenico in Cagli (Bernardini 2018). These figures can be dated to the very early 1490s, a timeline also valid for the examined painting, assuming Cecilia Prete’s interpretation (2018) is accurate.