Peter Scherer's review
"City Views 1985 - Yearbook for Literature and Cultural Life in Berlin (West)" Edition Neue Wege, Berlin 1985
Peter Scherer on the painting "Catharina of Alexandria", by Carl Timner, 1985
English translation from German
Catharina of Alexandria is part of a tradition of liberation. His figure is characterized by knowledge, eloquence and beauty. His gift of speaking and moving others through his word to a complete change, does not express magical force, rather a rational vision. It does not embody something truly Christian, rather a humanistic ideal, a connection to Minerva and Venus, Athena and Aphrodite.
There have been similar women in times of radical change, which in no other place has more sharply marked its contradictions than in North Africa. They are graspable in Hypatia, a philosopher. It lived like Catharina in Alexandria; some believe they recognize in Catharina only the legendary reflection of the historic Hypatia. Beautiful and erudite, Hypatia has attracted the hatred of Christian fanatics.
They attract her to a church, they tear her clothes off her and they quarter her with large, sharp shells – a remembrance of the symbol of Aphrodite. Intelligence and beauty mean rejection of humility and asceticism. Catharina has studied all sciences since her early youth and she talks with everyone, with the cops, who conspire with her, with the emperor’s wife, whom she conquers, with the soldiers, who revolt against the emperor, with the scholars, who prefer to face death rather than continue to support the emperor’s policy.
Catharina shatters the apparatus of oppression, whose rubble remains at her feet. In her hand she holds an open book. She is patron of the Philosophy Department of the Sorbonne and of the University of Heidelberg.
Since there is no historical figure, whose identity corresponds to that of Catharina, Catharina belongs to a group-model of womens. The first of many to be named is that of Giuditta, who saves her city through her seductive beauty and her courage. Joan of Arc stands beside her.
Finally, it is worth remembering a woman whose name we do not know: a young Jewish woman, who in Auschwitz, in the anteroom of the gas chamber, tore the weapons off an SS cop and knocked him out. Witnesses confirm the indescribable, silent triumph of the prisoner in the face of the fact, which for a brief moment brings to life the reflection of freedom and justice.
Catharina is the secret patron of the working woman. Think of the “caterinette”, the milliners and hat-makers of Paris. From this point of view Catharina is – as a worker – the counterpoint of Mary, the mother.