LA TOUR, Georges de
(b. 1593, Vic-sur-Seille, d. 1652, Luneville)

The Repentant Magdalen

Oil on canvas, 113 x 93 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The repentant (penitent) Magdalen was a theme of particular importance for Georges de La Tour. He is known to have painted four full-length versions of the subject which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; in the Musée du Louvre, Paris; in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; and in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Moreover, there are several copies as well as a contemporary engraving.

All of La Tour's Magdalens run counter to the type favoured by most of his contemporaries, who preferred to portray a voluptuous and scantily clothed Magdalen in a cave or grotto, eyes heavenward, curly blond hair flowing over her shoulders. By contrast, La Tour's Magdalens appear in profile with dark, straight hair, seated at a table in an austere interior.