The Penitent Magdalene

Oil on canvas
The Getty Center

As in her legend, St. Mary Magdalene inhabits a cave and spends the remainder of her life in prayer and meditation, signified here by her gesture and her book. The vase at her right is her attribute.

The disrepair of her garments serves a number of purposes. It aligns her with other hermits whose clothing wore away to nothing, such as St. Onofrio and St. Mary of Egypt. By exposing so much skin, it also refers to her past as a sinful woman. And, it must be said, it does serve to titillate, especially with the loose and copious red hair and the peek-a-boo décolletage.

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