(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)

St Mary Magdalene

c. 1457
Polychrome wood, height 188 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

In the face of her profound faith, Jesus forgave Mary Magdalene her former life as a prostitute while they were in the house of Simon the Pharisee. The subsequent fate of the penitent is narrated in the Legenda Aurea. For thirty years she fasted, living as a hermit in the wilderness of southern France. Once famed for her beauty, by the end she was wrapped only in her long hair. She was exemplary of the renunciation of a sinful life, exchanging it for repentance, pious remorse and prayer.

In Donatello's depiction, which manages without the usual attributes (skull, cross and ointment), the unwavering withdrawal from the world of the Magdalene is presented, nourished by profound faith.