El Greco 1541 – 1614

Mary Magdalene in Penitence

oil on canvas (157 × 121 cm) — 1578 Museum Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

El Greco biography

This work is linked to Luke 8:2

A tear runs from Mary Magdalene's eye. She has retired to do penitence for her sins. She is sitting in front of a cave. Lying before her are a book and a skull. The presence of the skull shows that Mary has accepted the transience of human life.

According to a medieval story, Mary spent 30 years in a cave in the mountains of Sainte-Baume, in southern France, not far from the Mediterranean. El Greco seems to have used that story as the background for this painting.

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