Magdalena penitente, 1598-1602

Magdalena penitente, 1598-1602, Capitoline Museum

Domenico Tintoretto, Magdalena penitente, 1598-1602
Musei Capitolini

The character of Mary Magdalene was a particular inspiration for generations of European painters who seemed to have found the opportunity to depict a beautiful, even alluring, woman in the context of Christian piety quite irresistible. There are many wonderful paintings of the Magdalene as imagined both before and after repentance and I will be posting many of them in the weeks ahead. Tintoretto’s version is particularly striking. Surrounded by Christian regalia and with hands clasped in prayer his Magdalene shows a face and figure that would not look out of place on a Hollywood movie poster of the 1950s. The artist has perhaps gone a little too far in emphasising the, ahem, fallen side of Mary’s nature and it is somewhat difficult to imagine that this image could ever have been an object of simple worship, but it is a wonderful performance whatever Tintoretto’s intentions may have been.

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