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Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni, Saint Mary Magdalene borne by Angels

Key facts
Full title Saint Mary Magdalene borne by Angels
Artist Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni
Artist dates 1499? - 1546; 1496? - 1528
Date made possibly about 1520-1
Medium and support Fresco, transferred and mounted on canvas
Dimensions 165.1 × 236.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Lord Overstone, 1852
Inventory number NG225
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Mary Magdalene borne by Angels
Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni

Mary Magdalene, who according to medieval legend was a penitent prostitute, has risen from the dead on Judgement Day and is carried to heaven by angels, clothed only in her hair. This is one of the four lunettes (half moon-shaped) frescoes of the life of Mary Magdalene from the Massimi chapel in the church of SS. Trinità de' Monti, Rome.

In his Lives of the Artists, Vasari records that the commission to decorate the chapel came from a Roman courtesan, whose carved tomb was once there. The lunettes were situated beneath the arched vault of the ceiling. The four evangelists in the vault, the lunettes, the altarpiece (Prado, Madrid) and other ornaments in the chapel were painted by Giulio Romano, assisted by Gianfrancesco Penni. The rest of the chapel’s decorations were completed by Perino del Vaga from 1537 for the new patron of the chapel, Angelo Massimi after Giulio Romano’s departure for Mantua in 1524.

In 1837, the vault of the chapel collapsed and the surviving frescoes were sold.

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