Monday, July 23, 2012

This Blue Monday is Mary Magdalene Monday

One day late - in the church, the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene is July 22nd. Part of the reason she was such a popular art subject seems to be that she served as an early pin-up girl, an excuse to depict a beautiful, sensual woman. This 16th-century image is by Titian.
Sticks by you through your crucifixion. Mary Magdalene is  a  ridadie chick.
The companion of Jesus of Nazareth is an extremely popular subject in classical European painting. This image is by Luca Signarelli (1450-1523) and was painting in or around 1504, making it about 30 years older than the Titian. P.S. I totally love her shoes.
The story of the jar is recorded in Luke 7: 36-38 in the Christian Bible:

"36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."

This image, by Domenico Piola (1627-1703), painted circa 1674, is called Magdalene in the Desert. It refers to a legend of Mary Magdalene in which she spent many years of her life after the resurrection of Jesus as a penitent, leading a semi-monastic life to make up for earlier sins. (Luke's account calls her a sinner, but never specifies what her sins might be. As we learned in the Epic Easter Post, Joan Borysenko identifies her with ancient Near Eastern temple priestesses, servants of the Great Goddess.) 
This image is of Blanche d'Antigny portraying the Penitent Magdalene. The photographer, Paul-Jacques-Aime Buadry, lived 1828-1886. This image is in the public domain.
She has been portrayed by Lady Gaga...

...and by the Italian-born actress Monica Bellucci**. (I remember her best as Persephone from the Matrix movies - although, like the Rosario Dawson character in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, she's not a very powerful Persephone.)
Here she is in a contemporary image from Pinterest, still holding her jar.

This one is beautiful. It's unclear whether her white gown is supposed to represent her purity (in her penitent state, presumably) or her status as Jesus' bride. Both, perhaps? The doves are also ambiguously Christian or Goddess religion, symbols of both the Holy Spirit and Venus.

Here she is in the Eastern Orthodox icon style. In her hand, she holds a red egg. This comes from a folk legend about eggs turning from white to red when Jesus rose from the dead on the original Easter Sunday.

One of the most fascinating images you can find on Pinterest by searching "Magdalena" is the comic book The Magdalena. The series depicts a line of women, all descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene (and their fabled daughter Sarah, as mentioned in The Da Vinci Code), who inherit the Spear of Destiny (the spear that pierced the side of their ancestor Jesus on the cross) and fight to defend the Catholic Church.

The French version of the word Magdalene is Madeleine, which may remind you of the French breakfast treat. I ate them when I went to Spain.

So, in a way, you could honor Mary Magdalene by eating madeleines, reading Marcel Proust and getting your Remembrance of Things Past on. Just be sure to pronounce "Proust" to rhyme with "roost," or you may be mocked in song - see "Bitches in Bookshops."

** Sometimes, Bellucci remains in the Gucci name, but if the movie version of Jesus and Mary Magdalene were one of those couples who dressed alike, it might look something like this:

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Very interesting! Some really intriguing paintings in this collection. :)