The small statue of Mary Magdalene, acquired by the Bonnefantenmuseum in 2003, can definitely be attributed to the Maastricht woodcarver Jan van Steffeswert. The statue bears both his signature, IAN, and his maker’s mark. This Mary Magdalene is the fourteenth known signed work by Van Steffeswert. It is exceptional that a woodcarver of this period left behind such a large signed oeuvre, as mediaeval woodcarvers were craftsmen who worked to order and were not regarded as artists. In signing his work, Van Steffeswert was ahead of his time. But even without the signature, the statue would have been identifiable as a work by this artist, as it displays the master’s distinctive style and his attention to the human nature of his biblical figures.
Mary Magdalene is represented in a poignant pose with her hands clasped dramatically in front of her breast, gazing upwards in grief. Although we can no longer see what she is looking at, it would be natural to assume that this statue was originally part of a scene at the foot of the cross bearing the dead figure of Christ.