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Artist: Cagnacci, Guido 1 of 1
The Conversion of Mary Magdalene

The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, c. 1661-62

Guido Cagnacci
Italian, 1601-1663
Oil on canvas
90-1/4 x 104-1/2 in. (229.2 x 265.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

In the seventeenth century, Guido Cagnacci was celebrated for his deeply sensual paintings of female saints and heroines. The Conversion of Mary Magdalene , regarded as Cagnacci’s masterpiece, presents a unique treatment of this well-known subject. Full of earthy drama, it depicts Mary Magdalene rejecting her life of sin and excess in favor of following Christ. Her sister, Martha, reinforces her fateful decision. Behind them an angel (Virtue) chases out a devil (Vice). The handmaids at the door reiterate these contrasts: the crying woman represents Contrition; the other, gesturing in annoyance, represents Vanity. A beautiful confusion of cast off clothes and jewels suggests her desertion of this vice. Cagnacci’s brilliant tableau combines lofty allegory with sensuous representation to create an inventive and effective visual metaphor. The artist’s pride and satisfaction with the results are evident, as he signed his name in Roman capital letters at the bottom right corner, followed by the word “inventor.”

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Artist: Cagnacci, Guido 1 of 1