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Probably by Correggio, The Magdalen

Key facts
Full title The Magdalen
Artist Probably by Correggio
Artist dates active 1494; died 1534
Date made perhaps about 1518-19
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 38.1 × 30.5 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2512
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Magdalen
Probably by Correggio

Mary Magdalene leans on a large book and holds the pot of ointment with which she anointed Christ’s feet. According to legend, she retreated into the wilderness of Provence and lived there alone, unreachable by man, and was brought bread by angels who sang to her. In penitence for her former life as a prostitute, she has abandoned all her jewels and finery and her hair is in disarray. She turns from her book to look at us, with one naked foot crossed over the other, and her breasts exposed.

Correggio’s depiction of a full-length Mary Magdalene in a landscape is very original. She is seamlessly integrated into her wild setting and the ivy, dandelions and plants are depicted in meticulous detail. A change made to the composition during painting has been considered as evidence that the picture is definitely an original by Correggio, but some regard it as a copy of a lost larger picture.

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