Mary Magdalene

This life-size painted terracotta sculpture of Mary Magdalene dates to the early sixteenth century. It is attributed to Agnolo di Polo, a sculptor some scholars believe trained in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio. The sculpture might have been made for the women's church of the Ospedale degli Innocenti, as a document from the seventeenth century records its display there in a painted niche. Agnolo's Mary Magdalene is based on Donatello's famous wood sculpture of the saint (now at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo) which also shows Mary Magdalene in penitence towards the end of her life, when she lived as a naked hermit in the wilderness, and her hair miraculously grew to cover her body. However, Donatello's version is highlighted with streams of gold to elevate the holiness of the otherwise abject figure while Agnolo's version has naturalistic polychromy to emphasize Mary Magdalene's life-like features, such as her rose coloured cheeks and lips. Also, Agnolo's sculpture was not modelled fully in the round, in contrast to Donatello's, and has an unfinished, almost flat back, further suggesting it was made for a niche. A recent restoration carried out in 2015 replaced the missing hands of the saint with new ones made of resin that were attached with magnets. The original hands might have been worn down from centuries of use by devotees who often touched and kissed the hands and feet of sculptures of saints. Today, the Magdalene is displayed at the Museo degli Innocenti in Florence. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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