17thC Italian Oil on Panel of Mary Magdalene c1670


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17thC Italian Oil on Panel of Mary Magdalene c1670

Painted in oils on thick panel, the Italian school work depicting Mary Magdalene, penitent for her sins and with a sorrowful expression, clutching a crucifix, with fleshy arms and bosom, a halo of light around her head, the whole painted by a Bolognese painter and surviving from baroque period Italy.

The reverse of the picture shows illegible inscriptions, as photographed, with the condition of the painting being un-cleaned with some later small restorations, surface scratches and craquelure. Please refer to the photographs for a full visual reference. The inscriptions, in Italian, would well worth be further exploring if possible.

This work is a variation on the Penitent Magdalene which is a 16th-century oil on canvas painting by Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio. The painting portrays a repentant Mary Magdalene, bowed over in penitent sorrow as she leaves behind her dissolute life, its trappings abandoned beside her.

Mary Magdalene is one of the most universally well-known Biblical figures. Donatello produced a stunningly realistic interpretation of her character that differed from any other artist before him. It was common knowledge that Mary Magdalene had committed sin and lived a non-virtuous lifestyle. In Donatello's sculpture she appears penitent for her sins with an expression that pleads forgiveness, as we see here.

The composition of this work is most similar to that of Francesco Vanni’s ‘Maria Magdalena’ of c.1600 in that they both depict the Magdalene as a sensual figure with long hair according to tradition; with a gesture of pained dedication she contemplates the crucifix, which she holds in her hand pressed against her right arm, which she holds hand pressed against her right arm, this is in turn folded against her breast signalling penitence. Her whole body is rendered with contraposto torsion that serves to draw the spectator more closely into the protagonists drama. This engaging image of the Magdalene can be compared with the broadly diffused trend during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for images that depicted saints with an undertone of sensuality and thus revealed the preference of patrons for sacred themes that were infused by profane elements.

Beautifully time worn and evocative of Baroque period Italy.


  • H: 32cm (12.75in)
  • W: 24cm (9.5in)
  • D: 2cm (0.6in)



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'Doe & Hope specialise in decorative, rare and unusual antiques from around the world with a particular interest in the atmosphere that surrounds an object, taking a cinematic approach in the presentation of our inventory. Our house style is probably best described as theatrical; being a concoction of old money, dramatic decorative, and faded gentility, with common themes of both humour and the macabre running through our inventory, that includes both academic and playful objects.

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