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Paolo Veronese, The Conversion of Mary Magdalene

Key facts
Full title The Conversion of Mary Magdalene
Artist Paolo Veronese
Artist dates 1528 - 1588
Date made about 1548
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 117.5 × 163.5 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG931
Location Room 10
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Conversion of Mary Magdalene
Paolo Veronese

This is one of Veronese’s earliest works, painted when he was about 18, probably for a noble patron in Verona. The lighting from the right suggests that it was made for a specific location, perhaps the side wall of a chapel.

The painting’s subject has been the matter of much debate but it is now believed to show the conversion of Mary Magdalene. In western Christianity since the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was considered to be a promiscuous woman or a prostitute.

Martha takes her sister Mary to the Temple to hear Jesus preach as she is worried about her spiritual health. Overcome by Christ’s words, Mary blushes with shame and sinks to her knees. Mary is converted by her encounter with Christ and turns to a life of piety. The jewellery slipping from her neck suggests her decision to reject worldly things and become a follower of Christ.

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