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Oil painting - The Penitent Saint Mary Magdalen
  • The Penitent Saint Mary Magdalen
    Tintoretto, Domenico, born 1560 - died 1635
  • Enlarge image

The Penitent Saint Mary Magdalen

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    early 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tintoretto, Domenico, born 1560 - died 1635 (painted by)
    Raphael Sadeler I, born 1560 - died 1632 (engraved by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:

    1354-1869

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Domenico Tintoretto (1560-1635) was taught by his father Jacopo whom he assisted in painting the Sala del Collegio and the Sala del Senato in the Doge’s Palace, Venice. In the last decades of the 16th century, Domenico concentrated on religious commissions.
His later paintings lack the phosphorescent colours and vitality of his earlier the religious panels but effectively communicate Counter-Reformation ideas.
1354-1869 is a later, reversed, copy on oak panel of Domenico's painting now in the Pinacoteca Capitolina (oil on canvas, 111.4 x 92 cm, inv. 44843). Both the oak support and the technique used in the V&A picture suggest a Northern European origin and a 19th century date. The painting was engraved in 1609 by the Flemish artist Raphael Sadeler I and appears in reverse sense of the painting, suggesting that 1354-1869 was painted after the print and not the original.
The Magdalen is generally identified with the penitent harlot described in Luke (7:36 ff) who wept tears and wetted Christ's feet which she then wiped with her hair, kissed and anointed. One legend describes her as retreating into a grotto at Sainte-Baume in France, clearly visible behind her in the original painting and print. The small scale of this painting suggests it was painted for private devotion.

Physical description

The penitent St Mary Magdalen in the wilderness, draped in a reed mat, kneeling in front of a rock and looking upwards with her hands clasped in prayer before a make-shift desk upon which sits a crucifix, a skull, books a jar and a bowl

Date

early 19th century (painted)

Artist/maker

Tintoretto, Domenico, born 1560 - died 1635 (painted by)
Raphael Sadeler I, born 1560 - died 1632 (engraved by)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on oak panel

Dimensions

Height: 66 cm estimate, Width: 50.8 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend, 1868
Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix.

'Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798-1868) was born into a wealthy family, only son of Henry Hare Townsend of Busbridge Hall, Godalming, Surrey. Educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1821). Succeeded to the family estates 1827, when he added 'h' to the Townsend name. He had taken holy orders, but while he always referred to himself as 'Rev.' on the title pages of his books, he never practised his vocation... . Very much a dilettante in the eighteenth-century sense, he moved in the highest social and literary circles; a great friend of Charles Dickens (he was the dedicatee of Great Expectations) with whom he shared a fascination of mesmerism... Bulwer Lytton described his life's 'Beau-deal of happiness' as 'elegant rest, travel, lots of money - and he is always ill and melancholy'. Of the many watercolours and British and continental oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A, the majority are landscapes. He is the first identifiable British collector of early photographs apart from the Prince Consort, particularly landscape photography, and also collected gems and geological specimens.'

Historical significance: Domenico Tintoretto (1560-1635) was taught by his father Jacopo whom he assisted in painting the Sala del Collegio and the Sala del Senato in the Doge’s Palace, Venice. In the last decades of the 16th century, Domenico concentrated on religious commissions.
He was also an accomplished portraitist, painting Margaret of Austria, later Queen of Spain, and Doge Marino Grimani among many other illustrious sitters. His later paintings, such as the altarpiece of the Virgin Interceding with Christ for the Cessation of the Plague (1631; Venice, S Francesco della Vigna), lack the phosphorescent colours and vitality of his earlier the religious panels but effectively communicate Counter-Reformation ideas.
1354-1869 is a later, reversed, copy on oak panel of Domenico's painting now in the Pinacoteca Capitolina (oil on canvas, 111.4 x 92 cm, inv. 44843). Both the oak support and the technique used in the V&A picture suggest a Northern European origin and a 19th century date. The painting was engraved in 1609 by the Flemish artist Raphael Sadeler I (see British Museum, 1929,0715.28) and appears in reverse sense of the painting, suggesting that 1354-1869 was painted after the print and not the original.
The Magdalen is generally identified with the penitent harlot described in Luke (7:36 ff) who wept tears and wetted Christ's feet which she then wiped with her hair, kissed and anointed. One legend describes her as retreating into a grotto at Sainte-Baume in France, clearly visible behind her in the original painting and print. The small scale of this painting suggests it was painted for private devotion.

Historical context note

Paintings for private devotion. Christians in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods expressed and strengthened their faith through public rituals, such as celebration of the Eucharist, and personal devotions conducted in a private chapel, monastic cell, or simply in a secluded part of their home. In western Europe, a form of spirituality that emphasised the emotional involvement of the faithful emerged by 1300. Believers were encouraged to contemplate events from the life of Christ, the Virgin, or the saints, as if they were present. Images of the Virgin and Child were among the most popular images for private devotion and these were primarily small religious paintings suitable as a focus for private worship, as opposed to larger altarpieces intended for public display.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'The Penitent Saint Mary Magdalen', After Raphael Sadeler I, After Domenico Tintoretto, early 19th Century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 157, cat. no. 191.

Production Note

This appears to be a 19th century copy of Raphael Sadeler's 1602 engraving of Domenico Tintoretto's painting now in the Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome. The oak panel indicates a North European, rather than Italian, origin.

Materials

Oil paint; Oak

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Books; Jars; Crucifixes; Skull (skeleton component)

Categories

Paintings; Christianity

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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