Saint Mary Magdalen at the Sepulchre
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Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo
Italian, 1530s
Oil on canvas
39 x 31 1/2 in.

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Giovanni Savoldo depicts Mary Magdalene peering from behind shimmering folds of satin fabric. Although Christ does not appear, the strong light that bathes the left half of the painting implies his illuminating presence. The half-shadow cast on the Magdalene's face makes her appear vulnerable and tentative while also functioning as a metaphor for her enlightenment. Her slightly inclined head resting upon her cloaked right hand suggests an air of contemplation as she comes to recognize Christ's presence. Her sumptuous clothing may allude to her former life as a prostitute, and her attribute of the ointment jar, seen in the lower left corner, refers both to her anointing of Jesus' feet at a dinner and to her expectation of anointing the body of Christ in his tomb.