Noli me Tangere

This is one of the two earliest works by Titian in the Collection.

Christ appears to the Magdalen after the Resurrection to comfort her. At first she thinks he is a gardener; when she recognises him he tells her not to touch him - 'noli me tangere' (let no one touch me) - as told in the Gospels (John 20: 14-18). Elsewhere, the Bible records that Christ will soon ascend to heaven and send the Holy Spirit down to his followers: he does not want them to cling to his physical presence.

X-ray photographs show that Christ was originally painted wearing a gardener's hat and turning away from the Magdalen. The landscape was also drastically altered while the work was in progress.

Early Titian and Landscapes
Short Desc
Antonio Mazzotta
2 min 30 secs

Antonio Mazzotta: At this stage we’re talking about Titian being 22–23 years old. This is the Magdalen meeting Christ after the Resurrection. What is unique is the very ambitious attempt to fuse human figures and landscape, and to create a landscape that looks natural and real. For example, the line of the back of the Magdalen is almost continued in this wonderfully shaped tree, and the line of the body of Christ is continued on the hill. So we have a sort of large X – the arms of this X are natural elements, and the legs of this X are human elements.

But also he’s able to infuse his taste for the life that exists in things. All the early descriptions until the late 18th century emphasise the fact that one could almost step into Titian’s landscapes. They felt real like never before. We can feel that the sun is rising, even though we cannot see it, through the first ray of sunlight that is catching the building on the top of the hill. It’s a dynamic nature that goes far beyond what we see, for example, the breeze that one can feel in the foreground, the grass that is almost moving, and also the white drapery of the Magdalen.

The extraordinary thing about Titian is that even if he had died at the age of 24 he would have been a highly influential artist for the following generations. The fact is that he went on painting for about 65 more years after this work. So it was an incredibly long career – and every stage of his career was influential for a different artist.

Key facts

Artist dates
active about 1506; died 1576
Full title
Noli me Tangere
Date made
about 1514
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
110.5 x 91.9 cm
Acquisition credit
Bequeathed by Samuel Rogers, 1856
Inventory number
Location in Gallery