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Saint Mary Magdalene

Josefa d'Óbidosc. 1650 A.D.

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro
Coimbra, Portugal

This oil painting on copper, from the Convento do Louriçal, is thought to be one of the works from the youth of Josefa d'Óbidos. This assumption is supported by the inscription on the reverse of the painting identifying her father – Baltazar Gomes Figueira – as the owner of this "copper plate". The delicate work, rich in colour despite its overall darkness, adopts a pictorial vocabulary, inviting the viewer to repent, the principle path to redemption in the Proto-Baroque period. All the elements in this work contain this catechizing message to manipulate the observer. The story is that of a sinner converted by the doctrine of faith. The light glowing from the crucifix, together with the flame from the candle reveal this by bathing the figure and her expression in light, leaving the secondary elements in darkness. The attributes strengthen that idea: beside the Bible stands a skull, symbolizing meditation on the vanities of life and placed upon it is a "hairshirt" – the Discipline –an article for corporal mortification; both of these symbols of repentance and penitence are means of attaining the Divine Word of the Holy Bible.

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  • Title: Saint Mary Magdalene
  • Creator: Josefa d'Óbidos
  • Date Created: c. 1650 A.D.
  • Location Created: Machado de Castro National Museum, Coimbra, Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 22.8 cm x 18.4 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Photo: DGPC/ADF - Photographic Documentation Archive
  • Medium: Oil painting on copper

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