Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Donatello: Mary Magdalene

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence
We don’t have a whole lot of wooden sculptures left from the early modern age, and this one truly works with the medium. A late work by the great artist Donatello, whose other pieces in this museum demonstrate his wide stylistic range, Mary Magdalen is shown as a penitent hermit, all traces of worldly beauty gone. The browned wood gives her the appearance of a mummy but this wasn’t entirely intentional – it was originally covered with gesso and some elements, like her hair, were gilded (highlighted with gold leaf). Made in the mid 1450s, the elder Donatello was surely thinking about ageing and death; this state of mind must have been a factor in the creation of this and other works like the pulpits in San Lorenzo.
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