Jan van Scorel: Mary Magdalene (1530)


(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Jan van Scorel (1495 - 1562). The woman on this painting is Mary Magdalene who is holding her traditional attribute of an ointment jar, referring to biblical accounts where she wiped and anointed Christ’s feet (Luke 7:37; John 12:3). Mary Magdalene is wearing richly decorated garments: a dark blue-violet dress with sleeves wrapped by crossed pearl-studded black ribbons. On the bodice are Hebrew letters, probably meant to symbolize her origins in the Holy Land, but they have no apparent meaning. The weird rock formation on the left is the Sainte-Baume in Southern France. According to French legends, Mary Magdalene was was expelled from the Holy Land with several disciples during the first persecutions against Christians after the Ascension Day and fled with a ship. The group landed in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, preached the gospel in the Provence and settled in the grotto of Sainte-Baume. There she lived as a hermit for 30 years and was transported seven times a day by angels into the presence of God - this can be seen near the rock formation. Near the portrait of Mary Magdalene can a small figure be seen - this is a hermit who, according to legends, was a witness of the ecstasy of Mary Magdalene. Painting from around 1530.

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