Guido Cagnacci: The Repentant Magdalene (1660-1663)

(Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, USA)

A painting by the Italian artist Guido Cagnacci (1601 – 1663) which shows an unusual scene of Mary Magdalene. Traditionally Mary Magdalene is shown as an repentant prostitute who, after her conversion, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. Cagnacci shows Mary Magdalene here after her encounter with Christ in the temple. She is lying half-naked on the floor in the foreground - she has discarded her clothes and jewels (a symbol for vanity) which are scattered around her. Kneeling in front of her is Martha, the sister of Mary Magdalene. Martha is rebuking Mary Magdalene, urging her to give up her sinful life of vice and luxury and is pointing to an allegorical scene in the background in which an angel (Virtue) chases out a devil (Vice). The two fleeing women at the door represent contrition (the crying woman) and vanity (the woman who is closing the door). The painting was commissioned by the Holy Roman emperor Leopold I but the painting ended up in the collection of Duke Charles II Gonzaga of Mantua - it is not known if the duke just bought the painting or that the painting was a diplomatic gift of the emperor to the duke who was related to the emperor. Painting from 1660-1663.