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Trail: MaryMagdalene


Mythology FataleVrouwen ThreeMarys

Luke 8:2, Mark 16:9 (casting out seven demons, first to see Jesus post-resurrection); Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, John 19:25 (at crucifixion); Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47 (at burial); John 20:14-18, Luke 24:10, Luke 7:36-50 (sinful woman washing and anointing Jesus’ feet, van der Wyden's depiciton)

According to the Christian New Testament, seven demons were cast out of Mary Magdalene. She stood by Jesus at his crucifixion. She was at his tomb when he was buried. She was the first person Jesus addressed after his resurrection. Nowhere in the bible is Mary Magdalene explicitly described as a prostitute.

There is a lot of confusion with her identity. She came to represent many different women.
...the woman taken in adultery?
...washes Jesus’ feet with her hair?

“In eastern Christian tradition, Mary Magdalene is regarded as having lived a life of great virtue. She is regarded as having been a close companion of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In western Christian tradition, various Mary’s within the Gospels were identified with Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene came to be regarded as a repentant prostitute only in western Christian tradition.
The association of Mary Magdalene with sexual sin has various biblical sources. Mary Magdalene was identified with the city woman who was a sinner. That woman, who had many sins, bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped his feet with her hair, and anointed his feet with oil. The seven demons cast out of Mary Magdalene were identified with seven deadly sins. One of those sins was lust. Jesus told the chief priests and elders of his people that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom of God ahead of them. Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the resurrected Jesus. Mary Magdalene was thus identified as a repentant prostitute.”[1]


Penitent Magdalene

The skull for me is a focus. Said to represent her prayers. Or even her own skull (which is said to be in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene in the town of St. Maximin, France!)

Magdalene in Ecstasy

“According to a legend popular in Caravaggio’s time, after Christ’s death his faithful female disciple Mary of Magdala moved to southern France, where she lived as a hermit in a cave at Sainte-Baume near Aix-en-Provence. There she was transported seven times a day by angels into the presence of God, “where she heard, with her bodily ears, the delightful harmonies of the celestial choirs.” Earlier artists had depicted Mary ascending into the divine presence through multicoloured clouds accompanied by angels; Caravaggio made the supernatural an entirely interior experience, with the Magdalen alone against a featureless dark background, caught in a ray of intense light, her head lolling back and eyes stained with tears. This revolutionary naturalistic interpretation of the legend also allowed him to capture the ambiguous parallel between mystical and erotic love, in Mary’s semi-reclining posture and bared shoulder. The painting was immensely influential for future treatment of the theme by artists such as Rubens and Simon Vouet (who adopted Carvaggio’s earth-bound Magdalen but reintroduced the angels), and of course Bernini and his celebrated Ecstasy of St Theresa.” [2]

Hairy Magdalene

Love these in that she appears almost as an animal or something more than human. The loose flowing hair without ornament considered to be a symbol of purity. Freedom from vanity.

Magdalene with the Jar

This is a confusion of Mary Magdalene with the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair and annionted him with oil. But it’s good fun to find a jar in an old master painting of a woman and know that it marks her as a Magdalene figure. She often stares at the jar as if it holds all her secrets.

Black Magdalene?

While there are often Black Madonnas, I’ve never seen a Black Magdalene.... curious. Is this because Mary is a sex symbol and black women have not been considered sexy within Christian oeuvres? Well, I found this work, Négresse aux Bracelets by Mahmoud Saïd and while it seems somewhat sinister I still feel it has the atmosphere of a Magdalene image.