(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)

Martha and Mary Magdalene

c. 1598
Oil on canvas, 98 x 133 cm
Institute of Arts, Detroit

The painting has an iconographically very unusual theme. It shows Martha reproaching Mary Magdalene for her vanity, a subject that we know through a series of copies. The painting at Detroit has recently been recognized as the original.

The religious theme is treated in a substantially profane manner. It is a pretext for making passages of highly intensive painting and for constructing an image that, seen in the context of the usual dichotomy of Caravaggio's early years, is more of a genre scene than a religious one.