Titian 1487/90 – 1576

Noli me tangere

oil on canvas (110 × 92 cm) — 1511-12 Museum The National Gallery, London

Titian biography

This work is linked to John 20:17

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‘Don't touch me', says Jesus to Mary Magdalene, recoiling. Mary has come to the grave that morning to embalm the body of Christ. To her amazement Jesus is walking around alive. She first mistakes him for the gardener, which is why Titian has him holding a spade.

Irony has it that the crux of the story is presumably based on an translation error. The Greek source text reads: 'Mê mou aptou', which mean either ‘let me go', or ‘do not hold me.' Jesus must have said to Mary that she shouldn't stop him on his way to his father. The Latin Vulgate translation chose for the Noli me tangere interpretation, which the KJV Bible translators in turn copied as ‘Touch me not.'

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