Mary Magdalence

In this painting, Ribera proved that, as well as painting old men and penitent saints, he was also a virtuoso when it came to portraying beautiful women.

This work, which is from the artist’s later years, still contains some Tenebrist features. He has set the scene at the entrance to a cave, like a penitent saint. The sitter was his own very young daughter, who was just seventeen at the time and very beautiful. The light enhances the delicate skin of her face, cleavage and hands. In this latter period, Ribera gave more importance to colour, as we can see from the lovely red mantle. On the ledge against which she is leaning, we can see a pot of perfumed ointment, which is the symbol of Mary Magdalene. It was the perfume with which she anointed Christ’s feet, drying them with her own hair, which is why she is always shown with a splendid long mane of hair.

Ribera’s daughter also sat for one of his pictures of the Immaculate Conception. She was seduced by Don Juan José of Austria, the natural son of Philip IV. From their union a daughter was born, Margarita de la Cruz, who was placed in the Convent of Descalzas Reales in Madrid at the age of just five. The scandal was to lend a sour taste to the last years of the painter’s life.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns