The Penitent Magdalene

Object Details


The Penitent Magdalene


Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (Italian, about 1487 - 1576)




1555 - 1565


Oil on canvas


108.3 x 94.3 cm (42 5/8 x 37 1/8 in.)

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This painting of a repentant Mary Magdalene lifting her teary eyes to heaven was meant to inspire a greater spiritual devotion, at a time when Catholicism was being challenged by the Protestant reformation. Owing to the popularity of the subject, Titian and his workshop made at least seven versions of this painting. X-rays of the painting revealed that Titian made numerous changes to the composition, suggesting that he used this canvas to work out his ideas over a considerable period of time. This Getty painting is unique because it is the only composition that shows the Magdalene's Bible resting on a cloth-covered support rather than a skull--a symbol used to invite contemplation of death.

Images of Mary Magdalene, the fallen woman whom Jesus found worthy to redeem and who would spend the rest of her life in solitude to atone for her sins, were especially prevalent during the Counter-Reformation, a period of devout Catholicism that lasted from approximately 1540 to 1640. Upon seeing Titian's conception of Mary Magdalene, the art historian Vasari declared that the picture "profoundly stirs the emotions of all who look at it; and, moreover, although the figure Mary Magdalene is extremely lovely it moves one to thoughts of pity rather than desire."

1790s - 1805

Sir Richard Worsley, seventh Bart., 1751 - 1805 (Appledurcombe House, Isle of Wight, England), by inheritance to his nephew, Charles Anderson-Pelham, 1805.

1805 - 1846

Charles Anderson-Pelham, first earl of Yarborough, 1781 - 1846 (Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, England), by inheritance to Charles Anderson Worsley Anderson-Pelham, 1846.

1846 - 1862

Charles Anderson Worsley Anderson-Pelham, second earl of Yarborough, 1809 - 1862 (Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, England), by inheritance to Charles Anderson-Pelham, 1862.

1862 - 1875

Charles Anderson-Pelham, third earl of Yarborough, 1835 - 1875 (Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, England), by inheritance to Charles Alfred Worsley Pelham, 1875.

1875 - 1929

Charles Alfred Worsley Pelham, fourth earl of Yarborough, 1859 - 1936 (Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, England) [sold, Yarborough sale, Christie's, London, July 12, 1929, lot 102, to Colnaghi.]

1929 - 1930

Colnaghi (London, England; New York, New York), sold to Otto Gutekunst, 1930.

1930 - 1947

Otto Gutekunst, 1866 - 1947 (London, England; Switzerland), by inheritance to his wife, Mrs. Otto Gutekunst, 1947.

1947 - 1955

Lena Gutekunst, sold through P & D Colnaghi & Co., Ltd., London, to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1955.

La Peinture Vénitienne (October 16, 1953 to January 10, 1954)
  • Palais des beaux-arts (Brussels), October 16, 1953 to October 10, 1954
Italian Art from the 13th Century to the 17th Century (August 18 to October 2, 1955)
  • Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, (Birmingham), August 18 to October 2, 1955
Masterpieces of Art: In Memory of William R. Valentiner, 1880-1958 [...] (April 6 to May 17, 1959)
  • North Carolina Museum of Art, (Raleigh), April 6 to May 17, 1959
Konstens Venedig (October 20, 1962 to February 10, 1963)
  • Nationalmuseum, (Stockholm), October 20, 1962 to February 10, 1963
Gloria dell'Arte, a Renaissance Perspective (October 28, 1979 to January 27, 1980)
  • Philbrook Museum of Art, (Tulsa), October 28, 1979 to January 27, 1980
Titian and the Commander: A Renaissance Artist and His Patron (October 4, 2005 to February 5, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), October 4, 2005 to February 5, 2006

Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britian: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss., &c., &c. 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1854), vol. 2, p. 87n*.

Getty, J. Paul. The Joys of Collecting (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1965), pp. 31, 92, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), p. 90, ill.

Hall, Nicholas H. J., ed. Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York (New York: Colnaghi, 1992), p. 130.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), pp. xiv, 125, ill.

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