TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

Noli me tangere

Oil on canvas, 109 x 91 cm
National Gallery, London

The Latin title (literally 'Do not touch me') refers to Christ's first miraculous apparition after his death, when he reveals himself to Mary Magdalene. Finding the tomb empty, she mistakes him for a gardener, and implores him to tell her where he has moved Christ's body. As he calls out her name she recognises him and, leaning on her jar of ointment, reaches out, saying, 'Master'. But he replies, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father' (John 20:17). The theme was very rare in Venetian art at this time. This picture should be understood, however, as a devotional image of a popular penitent saint elaborated into a narrative.

Despite some awkwardness in the construction of the figures, Christ and Magdalene fit in harmoniously into the wonderful landscape that takes up most of the picture.