Thursday, 17 September 2015

Mary Magdalene: Portrait of a Lady

Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene by Sebastiano del Piombo, church of San Giovanni Crisostomo, Venice, 1510.  Sebastiano has captured a Mary Magdalene more true to the gospels than the usual simpering, repentant, reclusive, passive, self-abasing Magdalene of Church mythology; instead here she is portrayed as a bold and superior woman, mysterious and powerful.  ‘This face and figure’, said the novelist Henry James, ‘are almost unique among the beautiful things of Venice’.  She is ‘a strange, a dangerous’ woman, he said, ‘she walks like a goddess. ... This magnificent creature is so strong and secure that she is gentle. ... But for all this there are depths of possible disorder in her light-coloured eye’.