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The Magdalen
Workshop of the Master of 1518
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Saint Mary Magdalene stands behind a stone ledge and holds her attribute – the pot of oil with which she anointed Christ’s feet. Behind her, a window opens onto a landscape; the cliffs and buildings on the left are a fairly accurate view of La Sainte-Baume, east of Marseille, where, according to legend, Mary Magdalene spent the last years of her life.

The composition is based on Quinten Massys‘ Saint Mary Magdalene (Louvre, Paris). The Master of 1518 seems to have made an effort to suggest that the saint lived in an exotic past: her clothes are extravagantly rich and present a strange assortment of elements of historic, German, Italian, oriental and fancy dress. Her hairstyle is reminiscent of Venus’ in Botticelli’s Venus and Mars; the artist may have seen a print of it by one of Botticelli’s Florentine contemporaries.

Key facts
Artist Workshop of the Master of 1518
Artist dates active early 16th century
Full title The Magdalen
Date made before 1524-6
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 52.7 × 34.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG719
Location in Gallery Room 5
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