Giovanni Bandini dell'Opera, Bust of Mary Magdalene

Bandini, Giovanni, known as Giovanni dell'Opera
c. 1560-1590 ca
Sala della Maddalena
Terracotta, pigments, gold
Modelling, painting, carving, engraving
Height: 57 cm; Width: 55 cm; Depth: 25 cm;

Polychrome terracotta bust of Saint Mary Magdalene. Attributed to Giovanni Bandini, circa 1560. The original placement of the bust is unknown and there are no records of any particular liturgical significance associated with it. It is identified as Mary Magdalene because of the flowing locks escaping from under her veil and framing her face, a typical iconographic attribute of the saint because they are both a symbol of the seduction Mary Magdalene so frequently practiced before her conversion (medieval tradition identified Mary Magdalene as the prostitute converted to Christ in the Gospels) and are reminiscent of the gesture made by another Magdalene present in the New Testament, with whom she is often confused. The latter Magdalene was the penitent girl who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her long hair. This bust’s hair therefore emphasizes Mary Magdalene’s conversion, recalling both her past life and her future repentance. Her lovely face is both severe and contrite in its expression, as if purified of all the unruly passions of sin. 

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