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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Mary Magdalene” by Girolamo Savoldo

Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo - Mary Magdalene

“Mary Magdalene” by Girolamo Savoldo

“Mary Magdalene” by Girolamo Savoldo is identified in this painting by the pot of ointment in the lower left of the painting, with which she anointed Christ’s body, and by the slight glimpse of a red dress beneath a silver-grey cloak. The landscape background appears to mirror the artist’s views of Venice and its lagoon. Mary Magdalene was a Jewish woman who, according to the gospels, travelled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

All four gospels identify her as the first witness to the empty tomb and the first to testify to Jesus’s resurrection. During the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was conflated in western tradition with Mary of Bethany and the woman who anoints Jesus’s feet, resulting in an inaccurate belief that she was a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman. During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church used Mary Magdalene as a symbol of penance. Speculations that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’s wife or that she had a love relationship with him are regarded by most as dubious.

Girolamo Savoldo

Girolamo Savoldo was an Italian High Renaissance painter active mostly in Venice.  He is noted for his subtle use of colour and the use of sharp contrasts between light and dark. His works were primarily religious subjects, and only about 40 paintings and a handful of drawings are known.

Reflections

  • Why was this subject popular in the Christian Catholic world of the time?

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Mary Magdalene

  • Title:          Mary Magdalene
  • Artist:        Girolamo Savoldo
  • Date:          1535 until 1540
  • Materials:  oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 89.1 cm (35 in); Width: 82.4 cm (32.4 in)
  • Museum:    The National Gallery, London

Girolamo Savoldo

  • Artist:            Girolamo Savoldo, also Girolamo da Brescia
  • Born:              1480-1485 – Brescia, Lombardy, Italy
  • Died:              1548 – Venice
  • Nationality:   Italian
  • Movement:    Italian High Renaissance
  • Notable Works:

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“The saint who works no miracles isn’t glorified.”
– Greek Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) Girolamo Savoldo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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