Rogier van der Weyden 1399/1400 – 1464

Mary Magdalene (1445)

oil on panel (101 × 35 cm) — c. 1445 Museum Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Rogier van der Weyden biography

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This is the left panel of Van der Weyden's Crucifixion triptych. Mary Magdalene, in mourning attire, her face heavy with grief. This Magdalene differs vastly from the one Van der Weyden will paint five years later (shown here).

One look at background and we can see that landscape-painting was not one of Rogier's greater gifts. Mary's face, on the other hand, testifies to Rogier's remarkable talent for expressing emotions.

Mary is holding her usual attribute, a jar of ointment. This attribute may be the result of a case of mistaken identities, i.e. the assumption that Mary Magdalene is the Mary who anointed Jesus' feet. According to John John this lady was a different Mary altogether: Mary of Bethany.

Mark and Matthew mention a woman pouring ointment over Jesus' head in Bethany a few days before the Last Supper, but neither mention her by name.

Luke describes the same scene as John, but much earlier in the Gospel. He too mentions no names, which is probably what contributed further to the misunderstanding.

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