Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene

c.1670

Material
Wood

Collection
Dom Museum Wien

Inv.Nr.
I/27

Wood
Sculpture
Baroque

On view

Query
Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Mary Magdalene as a pentinent

This very impressive sculpture shows Mary Magdalene as a pentinent. The skull and crucifix in her hand further highten the dramatic impression.

Mary of Magdala was one of the women who followed Jesus. She was present at his crucifixion and entombment, and she was also the first, even before the apostles, to encounter the resurrected Christ (“Noli me tangere”). Later epochs also see other female Biblical figures in her: the sinner anointing Jesus’s feet, or Mary, the sister of Martha. This sculpture does no show Mary Magdalene in rich attire with the identifying attribute of the ointment jar, but as a penitent holding a skull in her hands: legend has it that she spent the last years of her life as a recluse living in a cave.
In her left hand, Mary Magdalene is holding the skull, which compositionally parallels the way she holds her head, her right once presumably held a cross: both symbolize her renouncing the world and devoting herself to God. Her gaze, it would seem, was firmly fixed on the figure of Christ on the cross in her hand. Many small creases make the fabric of her gilded coat look thin and light. Underneath, she wears a coarsely knitted hairshirt with sleeves to the elbow. Its wickerwork-like structure suggests a cilice or penitent’s shirt.