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Penitent Magdalen
Veronese, Paolo (Paolo Cagliari)
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Veronese, Paolo (Paolo Cagliari)

Verona, 1528 - Venice, 1588

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Penitent Magdalen

1583. Oil on canvas.
Room 043

Paolo Veronese`s Penitent Magdalene, 1583, reflects the change occurring in Venetian religious painting around 1580. On one hand, the new order of priorities imposed by the Council of Trent (1545-63) emphasised subjects such as the Eucharist, penitence and the martyrdom of the saints. On the other, the Inquisition began to zealously protect decorum in the treatment of sacred subjects. Veronese had already experienced this rigour in 1573, when he appeared before the Inquisition to justify certain liberties in his setting of the Feast in the House of Levi, 1573 (Galleria dell`Accademia, Venice). While all painters adjusted their work in response to these demands, each did so in their own way. Veronese chose to abandon the sumptuous theatricality of his earlier compositions in favour of a more intimate and tranquil spirituality. He changed formal aspects of his work, progressively simplifying his compositions and introducing a darker palette and sketchier style. The new works had a focused, emotional content made all the more powerful by the stripping away of accessory details that would only have distracted believers.

All of this is visible in the present Magdalene, which is resolved with a considerable economy of means. A crucifix, a skull, a book and a few branches are all Veronese needed to set the scene, and while the palette is still rich in bright colours, the canvas is imbued with a tranquillity resulting from the celestial light illuminating the saint`s serene visage. She is shown at the moment of revelation and her emotion is visible in her tremulous lips and upturned gaze. In L`arte de Cenni (1616), Giovanni Bonifazio offers the following description: Occhi volti al cielo. Quando si prega, overo si ringratia Dio si rivoltano gli occhi al Cielo (Turn your eyes to heaven. When you pray, and give thanks to God you turn your eyes to Heaven). Mary Magdalene accepts the will of God with sincere humility, placing her open right hand on her bosom in a common gesture from religious paintings whose prototype is the figure of the Virgin Mary in depictions of the Annunciation. The tears of repentance and devotion that run down her cheeks are especially significant. According to Saint John Chrysostom, they wash away sin and are the outer manifestation of the contritio (contrition) necessary for the confesio (confession) that leads to satisfaction, the three stages of the sacrament of penance, a cornerstone of Catholic dogma.

The Inquisition`s emphasis on decorum in the treatment of sacred subjects is also visible in another aspect of this painting. During the Renaissance, Mary Magdalene was depicted with an eroticism that provoked the criticism of orthodox sectors that viewed such depictions as more likely to awaken desire than prompt contrition. Here, despite the saint`s beauty, Veronese covers her with a silken robe that barely reveals one shoulder, and a part of her bosom is chastely covered with her hands and hair. He thus hides much more of her anatomy than in earlier versions, such as that in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Carlo Ridolfi saw this painting at the residence of the French ambassador to Venice in 1648. It is not listed among the works of Charles I of England, but that is where the Count of Fuensaldaña purchased it for Luis de Haro. It entered the Spanish Royal Collection by way of Queen Elisabeth Farnese (1692–1766) and appears in the 1746 inventory of the Royal Palace of La Granja, Madrid, and the 1794 inventory of the Palace of Aranjuez. It entered the Museo del Prado in 1819.

Falomir Faus, M., Paolo Veronese 'Penitent Mary Magdalene' En:. Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, p.84


Technical data

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Inventory number
Veronese, Paolo (Paolo Cagliari)
Penitent Magdalen
Height: 115.4 cm; Width: 91.5 cm
Acquisition of Count of Fuensaldaña for don Luis de Haro, Londres, ca. 1651; VII marqués del Carpio collection, Jardín de San Joaquín, Madrid, 1689; Royal Collection (acquisition of Carlos II; Real Alcázar, Madrid, obrador de pintores de cámara, 1694; Elizabeth of Farnese Collection, La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace, Segovia, 1726; Elizabeth of Farnese Collection, La Granja, antecámara del rey, 1746, nº 590; La Granja, sala de la princesa, 1766, nº 590; Palacio de Aranjuez, Madrid, pieza en que está el oratorio, 1794, nº 90).

Bibliography +

Inventario General de Pinturas, Muebles y otras alhajas de la Reina Nuestra Señora que tiene en el Palacio del R. Sitio de S. Ildefonso, VII, Madrid, 1746, pp. 95.

Madrazo, Pedro, Catálogo descriptivo e histórico del Museo del Prado de Madrid, [s.n.], Madrid, 1872, pp. 301.

Caliari, Pietro, Paolo Veronese. Sua Vita e Sue Opere, Forzoni e C.Tipografi del Senato, Roma, 1888, pp. 250.

Osmond, Percy H., Paolo Veronese : his career and work, The Sheldon Press, Londres, 1927, pp. 92 y 119.

Fiocco, G., Paolo Veronese 1528-1588, Apollo Bologna, Bolonia, 1928, pp. 201.

Berenson, Bernard, Italian pictures of the renaissance. List of the principal artists and their works with and index of places :Venetian school, Phaidon, Londres, 1957.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Marini, Remigio, La obra pictórica completa del Veronés, Noguer, Barcelona, 1976, pp. nº 268.

Pignatti, Terisio, Veronese: l'opera completa, Alfieri, Venecia, 1976, pp. lám. 612.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: pintura italiana anterior a 1600, Gredos, Madrid, 1979, pp. 202.

Pallucchini, Rodolfo, Verones, Carroggio, Barcelona, 1984, pp. 152, 187.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 756.

Rearick, W.R., The Art of Paolo Veronese 1528-1588, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1988, pp. 158-159.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Pignatti, Terisio, Veronese. Catalogo Completo Dei Dipinti, Cantini, Firenze, 1991, pp. 294.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Madrid, 1996, pp. 438.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds MercatorFundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 298.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, De Tiziano a Bassano. Maestros Venecianos del Museo de Prado, Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 1997, pp. 120.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pintura italiana del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del PradoAldeasa, Madrid, 1999, pp. 226.

Museo Nacional del Prado, La Almoneda del Siglo: relaciones artísticas entre España y Gran Bretaña, 1604-1655, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2002, pp. 264.

Ruíz Manero, J. M., Observaciones sobre algunas obras de Pablo Verones y de sus seguidores en España, ARCHIVO ESPAÑOL DE ARTE / ARCHIVO ESPAÑOL DE ARTE Y ARQUEOLOGIA, 75, 2002, pp. 14-16/lám. 6.

Suarez Quevedo, Diego, Sombras luces y penumbras en ambientaciones y figuraciones artísticas a fines del siglo XvI e inicios del XVII, ANALES DE HISTORIA DEL ARTE (UNIVERSIDAD COMPLUTENSE DE MADRID), 13, 2003, pp. 168 / lám.4.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel; Martínez Cuesta, Juan; Pérez Preciado, José Juan, Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio. Inventarios Reales, II, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004, pp. 485.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, pp. 82-83.

Zamperini, Alessandra, Paolo Veronese, Arsenale, 2013, pp. 162-163.

Falomir Faus, M., Paolo Veronese 'Penitent Mary Magdalene' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 84.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 498.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 498.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 532.

Inv. Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1746. Núm. 590.
Una Pintura origl en Lienzo, pegado en Tabla, de mano de Pablo Beronès, que reptª Stª Maria Madalegna con los brazos Cruzados, una Cruz, un santo Christo, un Libro, y una Calavera. tiene quatro pies, y quatro dedos de alto, y cinco quartas de ancho. Marco dorado con dos ordenes de Talla, y ocho Targetas vajo relieve ... 1

Inv. Testamentaría Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1766. Núm. 590.
Sala de la Princesa / 590 / Un quadro en tabla, de cinco pies de alto, y quatro de ancho, marco tallado, y dorado, representa la Magdalena, de Pablo Verones, vale tres mil rrs

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 732.
Pablo Veronés / 732. La Magdalena / Delante de ella hay un libro abierto apoyado en el tronco de un arbol en que esta un crucifijo. Tiene los brazos cruzados, y se vuelve con sorpresa hacia un rayo de luz. (C.L.) / Alto 4 pies, 4 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 3 pies, 9 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 732.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Aranjuez, 1794. Núm. 90.
Pieza en que està el Oratorio / [315] 90 / Una tabla de 4 pies y medio de alto y tres y tres quartos de largo Stª. Maria Magdalena delante de un Crucifixo, Libro y Calabera. Pablo Veronès ... 2000

Inscriptions +

Dated. Front, left side

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

La Almoneda del Siglo. Relaciones artísticas entre España y Gran Bretaña, 1604 - 1655
15.03.2002 - 02.06.2002

Pintura veneciana del siglo XVI de las colecciones del Museo del Prado
04.12.1997 - 08.02.1998

Location +

Room 043 (On Display)


Displayed objects +




Update date: 03-09-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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