At the time of the 2001 exhibition catalogue, Professor Erich Schleier only knew this painting from photographs and considered it a studio work after the prototype which depicts Saint Agnes in Glory, in Larchmont, New York (see Literature). Having seen the painting in the original, Professor Schleier now believes it to be a fully autograph variant instead. Many elements differ between the two pictures: the number and arrangement of the putti has been altered and the present saint is seen holding a vase and can thus be identified as Saint Praxedis (even with the naked eye it is possible to see that the artist painted the vase over a lamb, the attribute of Saint Agnes, which is held aloft in the Larchmont prototype). The putto holding the martyr's palm, seen here upper left, is missing from the Larchmont painting and shows how Lanfranco's vision of the design evolved.
In both the other two autograph variants of the design which are known (Credito Emiliano, Reggio Emilia, and Galleria Colonna, Rome), the saint is shown holding a small urn and can thus be identified as Mary Magdalene.1
We are grateful to Professor Schleier for his assistance in cataloguing this painting.
1. See Literature, pp. 178-181, cat. nos. 39 and 40, both reproduced in colour.