OIL PAINTING: The Penitent Magdalen, 1638-1643
An artist of great brilliance and originality, Georges de La Tour was from the duchy of Lorraine in northeastern France. Early in his career La Tour gained knowledge of contemporary Caravaggesque painting with its emphasis on realism and dramatic effects of light and dark. This painting shows the Penitent Magdalen in a dark room at the dramatic moment of her conversion, her features lit by a candle flame that imparts a hauntingly spiritual quality to the work. The elaborate silver mirror, the pearls on the table, and the jewels on the floor symbolize luxury, which she has cast aside. In their place she clasps a skull, a common symbol of mortality.