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The Penitent Magdalen | by Maulleigh
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The Penitent Magdalen

The Penitent Magdalen

Georges de La Tour (French, 1593–1652)

Oil on canvas; 52 1/2 x 40 1/4 in. (133.4 x 102.2 cm)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1978 (1978.517)


A sinner, perhaps a courtesan, Mary Magdalen was a witness of Christ who renounced the pleasures of the flesh for a life of penance and contemplation. She is shown with a mirror, symbol of vanity; a skull, emblem of mortality; and a candle, that may stand for spiritual enlightenment. The style of La Tour, a native of the duchy of Lorraine in eastern France, is much indebted to Caravaggesque painting. The contrast of candlelight and shadow, the pure geometry of form, and the meditative mood characterize the pictures for which he is chiefly famous.

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Taken on February 28, 2009