- Reference number
- Ribera, José de (Spanish)
- Penitent Mary Magdalene
- Ca. 1637
- 97 cm x 66 cm
- On display
- Colección Real (Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, tercera pieza de la Furriera, 1747, nº 165; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, cuarto del infante don Antonio-antecámara, 1794, nº 165; Palacio Real, Madrid, gabinete, 1814-1818, nº 165).
Mary Magdalene is depicted half-length, in a pensive and melancholy mood. She rests her head on a skull that symbolizes the brevity of earthly life. A jar of salve, her characteristic attribute, appears in the foreground. In keeping with traditional iconography, she wears a sackcloth garment against her bare skin and her long hair hangs free.
Representations of Mary Magdalene were very popular in the seventeenth century as examples of repentance from sin and also because they offered the possibility of depicting an attractive body.
This work dates from the beginning of Ribera's second period; it still has a tenebrist air, but the light has become more golden and produces intense highlights on the saint's hair and on the metal jar.
By 1666, this painting was at Madrid's Alcázar Palace.