OIL PAINTING: Magdalene, 1596-1597
This painting of Caravaggio - Magdalene and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt must have been painted around the same time, for the same girl sat for the Magdalene and the Madonna. A young girl, seen from above, is seated on a low stool in one of Caravaggio's favourite cave-like settings, with a triangle of light high up on the wall behind her. Discarded jewellery - a string of pearls, clasps, a jar (perhaps holding precious ointment) - lies on the floor. The girl's hair is loose, as if it has just been washed. Her costume, consisting of a white-sleeved blouse, a yellow tunic and a flowery skirt, is rich.
Although nothing painted in the sixteenth century is as emotive as the statue in wood of the haggard saint carved by Donatello (c.1456-60), by the time Titian's bare-breasted Magdalene of the 1530s (Palazzo Pitti, Florence) had become the more modest and affecting Magdalene of the 1560s, there had been a move in religious sensibility towards the humble and pathetic, a change which thirty years later Caravaggio could take for granted.