(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
Mary Magdalen in Penitence1578-80
Oil on canvas, 108 x 101 cm
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester
Portrayed as a hermit saint, Mary Magdalen sits alone outside her cave, which according to legend was at St-Baume in southern France. During the course of his career El Greco developed five different compositions representing the Magdalen in penitence. This is an excellent example of the first of these developed soon after his arrival in Spain. Demand for such images was so strong that El Greco had copies made in his workshop from his originals. In this painting, the refined execution of the drapery and of the still-life indicate the hand of El Greco himself.
In this composition El Greco drew on Titian's interpretation of the subject in a painting now in the Hermitage. However, El Greco's rendition is more emotionally charged. A later version of the same composition in the Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City shows the Magdalen in exactly the same position but with the landscape to the left and the still-life to the right.