South Netherlandish workshop, Noli Me Tangere

1500-1520
Wool, silk, and gilt-metal wrapped thread
The Cloisters Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 56.47.

In most respects the iconography follows the text of John 20:13-17. Mary Magdalene is identified by the ointment jar on the ground between her and Christ. She kneels with hands pressed together to express the exclamation Rabboni – and also because she "represents all repentant sinners" (Golden Legend, I, 220). Christ's gesture expresses his words, "do not touch me" (noli me tangere).

The shovel signifies that Christ is "the spiritual Gardener, who by the power of His love had sown strong seeds of virtue" (Catena, IV, ii, 601-602). The garden itself, with its fence and gate, recall the words of the Song of Solomon which were taken to apply to the individual soul: "my spouse is a garden enclosed, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up" (4:12). The tree in the center with its abundant apples refers to 5:1, "Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat the fruit of his apple trees [fructum pomorum suorum]."

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Photographed at the Cloisters by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.