Title

The Saint of Sex and Sorrow: Mary Magdalene’s Unique Identity in Penitent Magdalene

Description/Abstract

Despite being produced early in his career in 1594, Caravaggio’s Penitent Magdalene represents one of the most complex interpretations of Saint Mary Magdalene. It is especially profound when compared to renditions prior to Caravaggio’s which typically portray the Magdalene in ways that emphasize her supposed former life as a prostitute or her life after conversion as a haggard hermit. However, Caravaggio’s interpretation of the saint does not lie within either of these exaggerated themes thus calling into question the intended purpose of the painting. The discrepancy surrounding the Magdalene’s identity can be attributed to Pope Gregory the Great who merged Mary Magdalene with other women from the Gospels including “Luke’s sinner” which established her as a prostitute. Despite the inconsistencies in her story, the subject was suitable for the period as prostitution was a major part of society during Caravaggio’s time in Rome. This paper determines that Caravaggio’s Penitent Magdalene exhibits his early wisdom as he sought to incorporate the social issues surrounding the heightened presence of prostitution in sixteenth and seventeenth century Rome into a particularly emotive religious painting of Saint Mary Magdalene that enables the viewer to resonate with the humanity of the saint more so than prior renditions.

Presenting Author Name/s

Ireland O'Hare

Faculty Advisor

Anne Muraoka

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Disciplines

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture

Session Title

College of Arts & Letters 5

Location

Learning Commons @ Perry Library Room 1306

Start Date

2-8-2020 11:30 AM

End Date

2-8-2020 12:30 PM

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Feb 8th, 11:30 AM Feb 8th, 12:30 PM

The Saint of Sex and Sorrow: Mary Magdalene’s Unique Identity in Penitent Magdalene

Learning Commons @ Perry Library Room 1306

Despite being produced early in his career in 1594, Caravaggio’s Penitent Magdalene represents one of the most complex interpretations of Saint Mary Magdalene. It is especially profound when compared to renditions prior to Caravaggio’s which typically portray the Magdalene in ways that emphasize her supposed former life as a prostitute or her life after conversion as a haggard hermit. However, Caravaggio’s interpretation of the saint does not lie within either of these exaggerated themes thus calling into question the intended purpose of the painting. The discrepancy surrounding the Magdalene’s identity can be attributed to Pope Gregory the Great who merged Mary Magdalene with other women from the Gospels including “Luke’s sinner” which established her as a prostitute. Despite the inconsistencies in her story, the subject was suitable for the period as prostitution was a major part of society during Caravaggio’s time in Rome. This paper determines that Caravaggio’s Penitent Magdalene exhibits his early wisdom as he sought to incorporate the social issues surrounding the heightened presence of prostitution in sixteenth and seventeenth century Rome into a particularly emotive religious painting of Saint Mary Magdalene that enables the viewer to resonate with the humanity of the saint more so than prior renditions.