Reliquary Bust of St. Mary Magdalene

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Matteo Civitali. workshop of
Reliquary , St. Mary Magdalene , Bust
This reliquary bust, currently housed in the museum of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, depicts St. Mary Magdalene, as suggested by her long loose golden hair (a reminder of the moment at which she was thought to have annointed Christ's feet and dried them with her hair) and made explicit by the inscription inside the glass vitrine embedded in her dress, which also contains a relic of the saint. The way in which her cloak is parted, like a curtain, adds drama to the presentation of the relic and recalls the ways in which relics were displayed on feast days or other particularly festive or dire occasions. Along with the piece of bodily remains of the saint, she is also made seem present in the living flesh in this portrait, which is idealized according to the standards of the time -- pale flesh with a blush, rosebud lips, high thin perfectly arched brows, a very high forehead, a columnar neck, etc. The almost geometric idealization of the forms and the particular expression of female beauty here show this to be a work of the late fifteenth century from the workshop of Matteo Civitali. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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