Saint Mary Magdalene Renouncing the Worldly Life (Primary Title)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Spanish, 1618 - 1682 (Artist)

early 1650s
Oil on canvas
Unframed: 65 1/4 × 45 3/4 in. (165.74 × 116.21 cm)
Framed: 79 × 55 in. (200.66 × 139.7 cm)

Mary Magdalene was an important saint of the Counter Reformation, the Catholic reaction to Protestantism that reached its high-point in the 17th century. Here, Murillo’s treatment of the sacrament of penance is consistent with Catholic doctrine, which upheld the Magdalene as a model of conversion and love. Murillo spent most of his career in Seville, where he was influenced by the Italian master Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio through the example of the Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán. All three artists emphasized monumental single figures against plain backgrounds with sharp contrasts of light and dark. The overt emotion expressed by the figure is typical of Counter-Reformation artists who wished the messages of their works to be easily understood by a wide audience.



Gift of Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams, by exchange
"El Joven Murillo" (The Young Murillo), Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, October 19, 2009 - January 17, 2010; Museo de Bellas Artes de Seville, February 18 - May 30, 2010.

"Murillo in America," Kimbell Art Museum, March 10 - June 16, 2002; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, July 14 - October 6, 2002.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.