Today I present to you «Penitent Magdalene», from 1597, a touching work by Michelangelo
Merisi, today in Rome in the Doria Pamphili Gallery. We are in the early years of his Roman career
and the great Caravaggio proposes, as his custom, the theme of the Magdalene according to a new one
Admiring this work I have grasped and admired the strength that comes from the awareness of one’s own
sin, of its own limit. Perhaps today’s man lacks precisely this awareness, which is the point of
strength for every change. Catullus said: «Everyone has the defect of him, but the problem is that not
He sees it”. Training to recognize one’s sins and ask forgiveness for shortcomings is an act
courageous and vital of the mature man.
The woman painted by Caravaggio has full awareness of her evil but at the same time she nourishes
desire for a change. The problem is not not making mistakes but knowing how to recognize your mistakes e
always leave. Boris Pasternak said: «I don’t love perfect people, those who never are
fallen, they did not stumble. The beauty of life has not been revealed to them ».
Traditionally, Mary Magdalene was represented in despair at the foot of the cross or penitent e
she emaciates in the desert. Here, on the other hand, you can see an attractive girl from the people, clearly one
prostitute, sitting on a low chair, with her red hair down, in the middle of a poor room.
Caravaggio presents her seen from above, she seems even smaller than she really is.
An expedient to express the weight of her past life, crushed by the past that she wants
leave. Her lavish robes contrast with the humble environment in which she is portrayed, they were used by
prostitutes to attract their customers.
Mary Magdalene tore the jewels from her neck and threw them on her floor next to his
her cruet of perfumed oil, a typical iconographic attribute that identifies her. With the head bent,
left alone after doing her sad work, she cries, as evidenced by her little tear that
of her shines on her right cheek. She is reflecting, she rethinks her life that she now she wants to take in hand for
make choices for her true good. She faces an inner struggle to cut through with her past her
painful. A strong light strikes her from the left and highlights her ear, which is particularly large.
She is listening to an inner voice, symbolized by her light, which touches her heart and announces it
possibility of a different life. Mary Magdalene is being reborn, in fact her arms seem
welcome a child. Perhaps Caravaggio suggests that he holds the new Magdalene in his arms that
she is reborn. God always offers you a new, better, happy life.
Merisi does not hide that Magdalene, before converting, had been a prostitute, according to the data
of the Christian tradition. Indeed, to be more credible she chose a real prostitute as a model:
Anna Bianchini, known as Annuccia. Obviously, such a decision scandalized the right-thinking, who
they accused Caravaggio of blasphemy. In reality, the artist conceived a deeply intimate image
and discreet, charged with a very lofty poetic, with which he expressed an original and intense religiosity.
The Magdalene of Merisi, in fact, is not a “saint”, but a “sinner” who became a saint, because
she knew how to repent and trust the Jesus she knew and from that encounter she was fascinated to the point of
completely change life. A love, the one felt for the Son of God who filled each one of them
emptiness and wound that she carried in her heart. In this we see a provocative desire to bring the sacred back to
human measure. The artist, who knew the Gospel well, seems to want to recall a famous phrase by
Jesus: «Well then, I assure you that thieves and prostitutes pass by and enter the kingdom of God».
This painting reminds you that in life you can always be reborn after every mistake, there is always one
chance to redeem yourself if you recognize your limitations and rely on a Power beyond your strength.
Thank you for your patient attention and I wish you a full and happy life with all my heart.

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