Yesterday was the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. In honor of this great saint (the "apostle to the apostles"), I want to share five of my favorite images of her. Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
5. Appearance of Jesus Christ to Mary of Magdala
by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1860)
Ivanov manages to capture the moment Mary realizes the man she is speaking to isn't the gardener, but rather is her Lord raised gloriously back to life. Mary falls to her knees in both amazement and joy, while Christ tells her to not hold onto him for He still must return to the Father.
4. Santa Maria Maddalena in Penitenza
by Orazio Gentileschi (1615)
Here we encounter a popular theme in the depiction of Mary of Magdala, her repentance at her past sinful life (that of a prostitute). Gentileschi shows Mary gazing upon a Crucifix (the instrument by which she would be set free from her sins) as she kneels, barefoot, upon an altar like rock.
3. Penitent Magdalene by El Greco (1590)
Working with the same theme and with the same traditional symbols (skull and crucifix), El Greco manages to probe even deeper into Mary's self abasement through his characteristic "mannerist" style.
2. Penitent Magdalene by Donatello (1450s)
I was fortunate enough to lay my eyes upon Donatello's famous woodcarving, Penitent Magdalene, on a trip to Tuscany. Here we see a woman totally dedicated to eradicating sin from her life. Clothed only in her own hair, weathered by years of repenting in the desert, Mary stands victorious, hands folded in prayer to her Lord.
1. Saint Mary Magdalen in Penitence by Antonio Canova (1790s)
Working with the same iconography as El Greco and Gentileschi, Antonio Canova shows Mary torn with despair over her past life. She stares down at a simple cross (without a corpus) which rests gently upon a human skull, a reminder of the fate Mary, you, and I will all sooner or later meet. This stands as my favorite image of the Magdalene as it calls me to examine my own conscience by reflecting on both my own mortality and on the price God was willing to pay to bring me home.
Saint Mary Magdalene,
woman of many sins, who by conversion
became the beloved of Jesus,
thank you for your witness
that Jesus forgives
through the miracle of love.
You, who already possess eternal
in His glorious presence,
please intercede for me, so that some day
I may share in the same everlasting joy.