Procaccini was one of the most gifted artists working in Lombardy in the early seventeenth century. His art was influenced by a variety of painters, from Raphael to Correggio, Parmigianino, and Rubens. His work was also affected by the reformist teachings of the powerful Milanese Cardinal Federico Borromeo. Procaccini primarily painted devotional subjects with great fervor that are nevertheless full of sensuality and drama.
His elegant Ecstasy of the Magdalen was probably painted for the prominent Doria family in Genoa, for whom he painted no fewer than sixty pictures. Mary Magdalen swoons in ecstasy as she is supported by winged putti below a group of refined celestial music-making angels. The two figure groups are united through gesture, glance, and expression to form one of Procaccini's most successful compositions.
An early follower of Christ, Mary Magdalen was present at the Crucifixion, and may be the woman who anointed his feet in the house of Simon. She has been called a prostitute, a sinner, or simply a woman who abandoned herself to a life of luxury before devoting herself to Jesus and his teachings. Earlier depictions of Mary Magdalen usually focused on her meditative or tearful penitence for her sins, with the identifying ointment jar nearby. As was common to later depictions, Procaccini's Magdalen is shown in uninhibited ecstasy moments before she is born aloft to heaven, a dramatic scene that allowed the artist to best show off his virtuoso painting technique.
Probably commissioned by Gian Carlo Doria [d. 1625], Genoa. Counts of Adanero, Madrid, by the late 19th century, until c. 1936. (Caylus Anticuario, Madrid), by c. 1990; private collection, Boston; consigned to (Hall & Knight Ltd., New York and London); purchased 8 February 2002 by NGA.
- Procaccini in America, Hall & Knight Ltd., New York, 2002, no. 12, repro.
- Sánchez, Alfonso E. Pérez. "Pintura Italiana del S. XVII en España." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Madrid, 1965: 363.
- Belloni, Venanzio. Penne - Pennelli e Quadrerie. Cultura e Pittura Genovese del Seicento. Genoa, 1973: 62-63.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 107, no. 83, color repro.