This is one of the great works of the French Baroque painter Georges de la Tour (1593 – 1651), and as it is considered one of his masterpieces it is currently exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The choice of the biblical character of the Magdalena is by no means accidental. During the seventeenth century there was an enormous devotion to this figure of the Gospels, who was considered the "perfect lover" of Jesus Christ, who was already beautiful, but increased her beauty thanks to penance. And it is necessary to take into account that during that historical period there were many currents of mysticism and even asceticism.
The Madeleine with a Lamp by Georges de la Tour
If you look at the French region ofProvence, the cult of the Magdalene reaches very high levels, since according to Christian tradition she died here. And she even had a shrine dedicated to her that became a place of pilgrimage, and hundreds of people flocked to theGrotto of Saint Baumeandthe Holy Marys of the Sea.
In addition, the Magdalena is the patron saint of the gypsies, and for this reason it is thought thatDe la Tourchose a woman of that ethnic group to serve as a model for the painting of her.
Georges de la Tour in addition to presenting us with a young and beautiful woman, he contributes with hispose and attitude an aspect of almost philosophical meditation, something also very typical of these years of baroque art. And only the light from the lamp on the table is able to illuminate that thoughtful face.
We see her with bare legs, which reinforces that feeling of abandonment and self-absorption. In her hand she carries a skull, the unmistakable symbol of death. While on the table she can be seen, in addition to the light, several books, a cross that is the sign of her religiosity and the object of her thoughts. And she also sees an object that she used to punish the penitents. These are blood-stained disciplines, as if when she couldn't think of Jesus Christ anymore, she decided to beat herself with them as penance for her sins and impure thoughts.
Georges de la Tourwas able to create his own style of chiaroscuro, different from that of the great master of this technique, the ItalianCaravaggioand his magnificent works such as The Slaughter of Saint John the Baptist. De la Tour's illuminated parts are cut perfectly into sharp edges, he does not use a fusion between the line of shadow and light. And it is that his technique was to model the planes of objects and figures only on one side. In addition, on the other hand, he tends to eliminate many excessively realistic details, since what he intends with his images is to endow his works with monumentality.