The Repentant Magdalene

The Repentant Magdalene
Guido Cagnacci (Italian, 1601-1663)
after 1660
Oil on canvas 
90-1/4 x 104-3/4 in. (229.2 x 266.1 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

The scene of Mary Magdalene's repentance was frequently depicted by painters in the seventeenth-century. Cagnacci, however, created a unique version of this episode. He combined reality, idealism and fantasy into one, vivid allegory of Virtue triumphing over Vice. His satisfaction with the results is evident, as he signed himself "inventor."

At center, a penitent Magdalene is rebuked by Martha. The confusion of clothes and jewels cast aside suggests her desertion of vanity. Behind them an angel (Virtue) chases out a devil (Vice). The handmaids at the door reiterate these contrasts. The crying woman represents "contrition"; the other, gesturing in annoyance, represents "vanity." This brilliant tableau combines lofty allegory with sensuous representation to create an inventive, but effective visual metaphor.


Dukes of Mantua by 1665, Duke Carlo II, villa Marmirolo and villa Favorita;
Duke Ferdinand Carlo Gonzaga, 10th and last Duke of Mantua in 1706, transported to Venice 1707; upon his death, transported 5 July 1708 to Padua, (sale, Venice, 1711, purchased by);
Christian Cole, and transported to England in April, 1711 for;
Henry Bentinck (1st Duke of Portland by 1716), Bulstrode House; Harcourt House by 1854;
Dukes of Portland, Welbeck Abbey and London, by descent to;
Lady Anne Bentinck, Welbeck Abbey (sale, London, Christie’s, 11 December 1981, lot 52);
[P.D. Colnaghi & Co., London];
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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