10/02/2008

Portrait of the week - Mary Magdalene

This painting portraying a sleeping Mary Magdalene was done by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (perhaps better known as just Caravaggio), sometime around 1595 in Italy.

Mary Magdalene, from the Bible, is a woman that it has been said quite a lot about - but the facts from the actual scripture are somewhat less vivid. She is mentioned in all four gospels. Jesus meets her and frees her of seven demons that had given her some form of physical problem. It is also stated on all four gospels that Mary was present at the crucifixion of Jesus. She was also one of the women that went to the tomb on Easter Day to find it empty and according to John Mary Magdalene was the first person to whom Jesus showed himself after his resurrection.

Many of the intellectuals of the Christian church have tried to interpret her and somewhat change her role from that originally stated in the Bible. In the early church Mary Magdalene was distinctly separated from Mary of Bethany and an unnamed women who's sins Jesus absolved after anointing him with oil. It was the pope Gregory I (the Great) who clearly identified Mary with these two other women, thereby making Mary Magdalene a woman of sin who was saved by Jesus and led from her wicked ways to a good Christian life. The theme of the repentant sinner became very popular in Western Europe - but modern scholars do not agree with this view since there is no scriptural evidence to back it up.

Another legend makes Mary Magdalene the apostle of Provence and that she spent her last 30 years in a cavern - and yet another legend makes her the wife of the apostle John. But these are just popular legends that never has been supported by the church.

The view of Mary Magdalene as the sinful woman can be clearly seen in this portrait. Her hair is loose, as is her rich garment - she is a woman with far too much money and not very much in the way of decency. A decent, unmarried woman would not appear in this fashion. Another tell tale sign of her lack of moral is the jewelery that is laying next to her on the floor. Normal women would of course not dream of having expensive stuff laying around in such a manner. And next to it is the jug with oil, ready to anoint the feet of Christ.

1 comment:

Ariadne Green said...

Noticed you haven't posted in a while.
Maybe this will inspire you to add the video and your commentary.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL2K3gcRaLs
bless you,
Ariadne Green