The Penitent Magdalene

Guido Renica. 1635 (Baroque)

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum
Baltimore, United States

According to Christian tradition, after meeting Christ, Mary Magdalene repented of her former sinful ways. With her ivory skin and long golden hair, the beautiful Magdalene turns her gaze toward heaven. Her cross and the skull make it clear she is meditating on the brevity of life and the salvation made possible by Christ's death. Reni created an idealized, as well as classical style influenced by ancient sculpture and by the Renaissance artist Raphael (1483-1520). This influence is visible in the Magdalene's rounded, even features, painted so smoothly that the strokes seem to disappear, in contrast with the broad, energetic strokes used for the drapery, more typical of 17th-century painting. Images of female saints sometimes depicted in a seductive manner, were very popular with some artists and patrons in the 17th century, and Reni painted many versions of this composition.


  • Title: The Penitent Magdalene
  • Creator Lifespan: 1575/1642
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Date Created: ca. 1635 (Baroque)
  • Physical Dimensions: w74.3 x h90.8 cm
  • Type: paintings
  • Rights: Museum purchase with funds provided by the W. Alton Jones Foundation Acquisition Fund and the S. & A. P. Fund, 1987, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
  • External Link: The Walters Art Museum
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Provenance: Cardinal Antonio Barberini [?], Rome, by 1671; Prince Maffeo Barberini [?], after 1672; Cardinal Flavio Chigi, Rome, by 1692; Chigi family, Rome, by descent; Neville; Sale, Christie's, London, March 2, 1804, no. 60; George, 7th Baron Kinnaird (d. 1805), Rossie Priory, Inchture, Scotland, by purchase; Charles, 8th Baron Kinnaird (d. 1826), by descent; Sale, Phillips, London, May 21, 1811, no. 5, unsold; Sale, Sotheby's, London, February 26, 1812, lot 77, unsold; 12th Baron Kinnaird, by descent; Sale, Christie's, London, June 21, 1946, no. 31; Private collection, Netherlands; Sale, B. V. Vendu Notarishuis, Rotterdam, February 26, 1987, no. 75; Piero Corsini, Inc., New York, 1987; Walters Art Museum, 1987, by purchase.
  • Place of Origin: Italy
  • ExhibitionHistory: The Divine Guido: The Paintings of Guido Reni. Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, 40126 Bologna; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. 1988-1989; Highlights from the Collection. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1998-2001; Saints and Sinners: Caravaggio and the Baroque Image. McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Chestnut Hill. 1999; A Magnificent Age: Masterpieces from the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte. 2002-2004
  • Artist: Guido Reni

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