Audio Stop 470
Georges de La Tour
The Repentant Magdalen, c. 1635/1640
West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 37
According to the tenets of 17th-century Catholicism, Mary Magdalene was an example of the repentant sinner. She became one of Jesus’s most devoted followers, and he absolved her of her former sins. Here, Mary is shown in profile seated at a table. A candle is the source of light in the composition, but the light also carries a spiritual meaning as it casts a golden glow on the saint’s face and the objects assembled on the table. The candlelight silhouettes Mary’s left hand, which rests on a skull that is placed on a book, which is then reflected in a mirror. The skull and mirror are emblems of vanitas, implying the transience of life.