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Figure - St Mary Magdalene

St Mary Magdalene

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Antwerp (City) (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1540 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved oak, with extensive remains of gesso, gilding and paint

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Here we see St Mary Magdalene kneeling, with her ointment-pot open in front of her. The carver made the piece from a single piece of oak. It is pierced by a number of nail holes for fixing, with some of the nails still in place. He has stamped the hand mark for Antwerp into the sloping base, below the ointment-pot, near the front edge of the relief.
The figure would have originally been brightly coloured. Mary Magdalene's dress was gold, with an elaborately painted blue border. Her shirt was originally white. The maker applied a solid layer of white over a gilded ground, then scratched through with a sharp tool to reveal the underlying gold. Her plaited hair was gold, as was her head covering. The ointment-pot was gold with red ointment , and the sloping ground was painted in green glaze over gold. The figure originally came from an altarpiece dedicated to the Passion of Christ. It would have been included in the scene showing either the Lamentation or the Entombment of Christ scene. This was usually shown to the right of the Crucifixion. The style of the figure is similar to that used on altarpieces of the 1540s.

Physical description

Figure in oak, from a retable: St Mary Magdalene at the tomb, kneeling and wiping her eye with a cloth held in the right hand; in the left she holds the cover of an ointment vase, which stands on the ground in front of her. There are remains of gilding and colouring.

Place of Origin

Antwerp (City) (made)


ca. 1540 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved oak, with extensive remains of gesso, gilding and paint


Height: 25 cm, Width: 27 cm

Object history note

Bought for £8.

Descriptive line

Figure, St Mary Magdalene, carved oak with extensive remains of gesso, gilding and paint, Antwerp, ca. 1540

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

Williamson, Paul, Netherlandish Sculpture 1450-1550, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002. 160p., ill. ISBN 1851773738.
List of Objects in the Art Division South Kensington Museum acquired during the Year 1895. Arranged according to the dates of acquisition, with appendix and indices. London: Her Majesty's Sationary Office. Wyman and Sons. 1897. pp.101


Oak; Gilt; Paint; Gesso


Carving; Gilding; Painting

Subjects depicted

Plant; Christianity; Pots; Grief


Sculpture; Religion; Christianity


Sculpture Collection

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