Saint Mary Magdalene

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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This elegant woman is Mary Magdalene, holding the pot of oil with which she anointed Christ’s feet. Although a biblical figure, she is dressed in the height of fifteenth-century fashion. Her red cloak and uncovered hair were meant to hint at the medieval understanding that she ‘gave herself to all delights of the body’.

In a kind of Renaissance virtual reality, Crivelli plays with our knowledge that we are looking at a flat painted surface by creating an illusion of three-dimensional space. Here Mary stands on a shelf in front of a curved stone recess, casting a shadow on the wall behind her. Her toes in their red sandals protrude over the edge of the shelf, as if she is about to step forward into our world.

The National Gallery, London



Saint Mary Magdalene


probably about 1491-4


Tempera on lime


H 37.5 x W 18.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1874

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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