This early work was probably produced for a noble patron in Verona. There has been much debate over the subject matter; however, it is now generally believed that the painting shows the conversion of Mary Magdalene. Concerned for her sister's spiritual health, Martha takes Mary to the Temple to hear Jesus preach.
Veronese shows Mary blushing with shame and sunk to her knees as she is overcome by Christ's words. Her fashionably low-cut dress, inappropriate for a visit to the Temple, is emblematic of her formerly sinful life centered on vanity and pleasure. Converted by this encounter Mary then turns to a life of piety. The jewellery slipping from her neck foreshadows her subsequent renunciation of worldly goods.
The scene depicted is absent from the Bible and the Golden Legend but narrated in Pietro Aretino's book 'L'umanità di Cristo' (1535). This publication was widely read in Northern Italy and probably constitutes the literary source for the painting.