Studies for Saint Mary Magdalene
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a tireless draughtsman for whom drawing was an essential means of developing compositional ideas. In these two rapid pen and ink sketches he explored the ambitiously twisted half-length figure of Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of penitents. Starting with the larger version he rapidly added the more summary drawing below. There the saint gazes directly at the viewer whilst lifting the lid of a jar of oil. The jar refers to the biblical episode of Mary Magdalene anointing Christ’s feet. Although no related paintings by Leonardo have survived, the composition was later used by his pupils who adapted it in their own works.