The J. Paul Getty Museum

Saint Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre

Object Details


Saint Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre


Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (Italian (Lombard), about 1480 - after 1548)




Italy (Place Created)


about 1530s


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



92.7 × 79.4 cm (36 1/2 × 31 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

Savoldo depicts Mary Magdalene in the Garden of Gethsemane peering from behind shimmering folds of satin fabric, tentatively looking outward at the viewer. She is identifiable by her ointment jar on the left, containing the oil with which she anointed Christ’s feet. She stands by the sepulchre, preparing to anoint the Saviour’s body. Unbeknownst to her, Christ has risen, and she is soon to encounter him in the garden. Although Christ has not yet appeared, the strong light that bathes the left half of the painting implies his illuminating presence. The shadow cast across the Magdalene's face gives her an appearance that is at once vulnerable and mysterious, while also functioning as a metaphor for her impending enlightenment. The rich, iridescent drapery perhaps alludes to her legendary former life as a prostitute.

During this period of the artist’s career, his paintings are characterized by gleaming light, vivid color and luminous, silvery tonalities. The painting—of which three other versions are known (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie; London, The National Gallery; Florence, Gallerie degli Uffizi)—has been interpreted in a number of ways. It has been suggested that the sensual image was a portrait of a courtesan, intended as an erotically-charged piece for a male collector. It may instead reveal the artist’s efforts to showcase his talent in reinventing popular biblical themes and representing complex surface textures such as the reflective satin fabric.

by 1806 or 1816

Possibly George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick, 2nd Earl Brooke, English, 1746 - 1816 (Warwick Castle, England), possibly by inheritance to his son, Henry Richard Greville, 1816.
Source: Field, William. An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Town and Castle of Warwick (Warwick: H. Sharpe, 1815)

possibly 1816 - 1853

Possibly Henry Richard Greville, 3rd earl of Warwick, 3rd earl Brooke, English, 1779 - 1853 (Warwick Castle, England), possibly by inheritance to his son, George Guy Greville, 1853.

possibly 1853 - 1893

Possibly George Guy Greville, 4th earl of Warwick, 4th earl Brooke, 1818 - 1893 (Warwick Castle, England), possibly by inheritance to his son, Francis Richard Charles Guy Greville, 1893.

possibly 1893 - 1924

Possibly Francis Richard Charles Greville, 5th earl of Warwick, 5th earl Brooke, 1853 - 1924 (Warwick Castle, England), possibly by inheritance to his son, Leopold Guy Francis Maynard Greville, 1924.

possibly 1924 - 1928

Possibly Leopold Guy Francis Maynard Greville, 6th earl of Warwick, 6th earl Brooke, 1882 - 1928 (Warwick Castle, England), possibly by inheritance to his son, Charles Guy Fulke Greville, 1928.

1928 - 1968

Charles Guy Fulke Greville, 7th Earl of Warwick, 1911 - 1984 (Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, England) [sold, Warwick sale, Christie's, London, June 21, 1968, lot 71, to Hallesborough.]
Source: Art Treasures of Warwickshire Exhibition (Leamington, 1948)

by 1971

David M. Koetser Gallery (Zurich, Switzerland)

- 1978

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's, London, November 1, 1978, lot 20.]


Private Collection (Zurich, Switzerland)

- 1997

Derek Johns, Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997.

Art Treasures of Warwickshire (May 29 to July 3, 1948)
  • Leamington Spa, May 29 to July 3, 1948
Italian Painting from the Thirtheenth to the Seventeenth Century (August 18 to October 2, 1955)
  • Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Birmingham), 1955
Art Treasures Centenary: European Old Masters (October 30 to December 31, 1957)
  • Manchester Art Gallery (Manchester), October 30 to December 31, 1957
Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo: tra Foppa, Giorgione e Caravaggio (March 3 to September 3, 1990)
  • Schirn Kunsthalle (Frankfurt), July 8 to September 3, 1990

Field, William. An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Town and Castle of Warwick [...] (Warwick: H. Sharpe, 1815), p. 218.

Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde im Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum. 8th ed. (Berlin: Vereinigung Wissenschaftlicher Verleger, with W. de Gruyter & Co., 1921), p. 425, under no. 307.

Art Treasures of Warwickshire Exhibition, exh. cat. (Leamington: n.p., 1948), p. 11, no. 60.

Italian Art From the 13th Century to the 17th Century, exh. cat. (Birmingham: City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1955), p. 37, no. 94.

Garlick, Kenneth. "Italian Art in Birmingham." Connoisseur 136, no. 547 (September 1955), p. 37.

Gilbert, Creighton E. "The Works of Gerolamo Savoldo." Ph.D. diss. 2 vols. (Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1955), vol. 1, p. 493, no. 104.

Waterhouse, Ellis K. "The Italian Exhibition at Birmingham." Burlington Magazine 97, no. 630 (September 1955), p. 295, fig. 31.

Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places: Venetian School. 2 vols. (London: Phaidon Press, 1957), vol. 1, p. 159.

Art Treasures Centenary: European Old Masters, exh. cat. (Manchester: City of Manchester Art Gallery, 1957), p. 15, no. 53.

Gilbert, Creighton. "Problemi della documentazione Bresciana per il Savoldo." In Commentari dell'Ateneo di brescia per l'anno 1959 (Brescia: Ateneo de Brescia, 1959), p. 64.

Gould, Cecil. National Gallery Catalogues: The Sixteenth-Century Italian Schools (excluding the Venetian) (London: National Gallery, 1962), p. 171.

Boschetto, Antonio. Giovan Gerolamo Savoldo (Milan: Bramante, 1963), under pl. 24.

Christie, Manson & Wood, London. Catalogue of Important Pictures by Old Masters. June 21, 1968, p. 32, lot 71.

Boch, H. Katalog der Ausgestellten Gemälde des 13.-18. Jahrhunderts, exh. cat. (Berlin: Mann Verlag, 1975), p. 391, under no. 307.

Gould, Cecil. National Gallery Catalogues: The Sixteenth-Century Italian Schools (London: National Gallery, 1975; repr., 1987), pp. 236-37.

Sotheby's, London. Highly Important Old Master Paintings Chiefly of the Italian Schools of the XIV, XV & XVI Centuries and of the French and Italian Schools of the XVIII century, also Paintings of the Dutch, Flemish and Spanish schools. November 1, 1978, unpaginated, lot 20, ill.

Formiciova, T. "Giorgione e la formazione della pittura di genere nell'arte veneziana del XVI secolo." In Giorgione: Atti del convego internaionale di studio per il 5. centenario della nascita [...] (n.p.: Banca Popolare di Asolo e Montebelluna, 1979), p. 163.

Stradiotti, Renata. "L'opera del Savoldo attraverso la graficia." In Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo pittore Bresciano: Atti del convegno (Brescia: Moretto, 1985), pp. 132-33.

Gilbert, Creighton E. The Works of Girolamo Savoldo: The 1955 Dissertation, with a Review of Research, 1955-1985 (New York and London: Garland, 1986), pp. 61, 163, 493, no. 104.

Pardo, Mary. "The Subject of Savoldo's Magdalene." The Art Bulletin 17, no. 1 (March 1989), pp. 67n2, 68n3, 72n16.

Creighton, Gilbert. Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo tra Foppa Giorgione e Caravaggio, exh. cat. (Milan: Electa, 1990), p. 146, under no. I.19; pp. 148-49, no. I.20, ill., entry by Renata Stradiotti; p. 150, under no. I.21.

Five Centuries of Old Master Paintings, exh. cat. (London: Harari & Johns, Ltd., 1991), unpaginated, no. 4.

Frangi, Francesco. Savoldo: Catologo completo dei dipinti (Milan: Cantini, 1992), pp. 100-101, no. 29, ill.

Sherrill, Tawny. "Who was Cesare Vecellio? Placing Habiti Antichi in Context." In Medieval Clothing and Textiles. Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker, eds. (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2009), vol. 5, pp. 185-87, fig. 7.9.

Nichols, Charlotte. “Rethinking Savoldo’s Magdalenes: A ‘Muddle of Maries.’” California Italian Studies 5, no. 1 (2014-15), pp. 175-203, fig. 2.

Calder, Michael. "Savoldo's Magdalene: 'True Reformations are Internal.'" Journal of Icon Studies 2 (2019), pp. 4, 7, fig. 3.

Brilliant, Virginia. Faithful to Nature: Eleven Lombard Paintings 1530-1760, exh. cat. (New York: Nicholas Hall, 2019), (accessed December 16, 2019)
, pp. 16-17, 42, fig. 13.