MENGS, Anton Raphael
(b. 1728, Aussig, d. 1779, Roma)

The Penitent Magdalene

Oil on canvas, 48 x 64 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Anton Raphael Mengs painted this picture in 1752 in Rome, and it led to his admittance to the Accademia di San Luca. Later he tackled the subject on numerous occasions, and in very different ways. In this version elegance and an expression of great sensitivity are combined with reminiscences of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century painting, along with echoes of Classicism in the drapery and the landscape.

The depiction of Mary Magdalene as a penitent does not appear in the Bible. It was not until the twelfth century that the legend arose of how she withdrew to a cave in Sainte-Baume in Provence in order to do penance after a life of sin.