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Georges de La Tour | The penitent Magdalene, 1640

With its extreme contrasts of candlelight and shadow, pared-down geometry, and meditative mood, this painting exemplifies La Tour’s painting at its most accomplished and characteristic.
These visual qualities were a powerful countertrend to Baroque painting’s typical pomp and showiness.
A native of the duchy of Lorraine in eastern present-day France, La Tour was indebted to Caravaggesque painting, but tended toward even more simplified forms.
The quiet atmosphere of this painting perfectly fits the subject, Mary Magdalen, who renounced the pleasures of the flesh for a life of penance and contemplation.
She is shown with a mirror, symbol of vanity; a skull, emblem of mortality; and a candle that probably references her spiritual enlightenment. | © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Penitent Magdalene, 1640 | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Magdalene with Two Flames or The Penitent Magdalene is an undated oil-on-canvas painting created c.1640 by the French painter Georges de La Tour.
In 1978 Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman gave it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it still hangs.
The painting depicts Mary Magdalene, a companion of Christ, who exchanged her previous worldly lifestyle for a life of penance and contemplation.
She is shown, illuminated by a candle, sitting in a meditative pose in front of a mirror.

The light from the candle and its reflection create a strong chiaroscuro effect, with the subject's brightly lit face and breast contrasting with the darkness of the rest of the composition.
Both the candle and the human skull she is holding are metaphors for the fragility of life and her discarded jewellery for the meaningless value of worldly possessions and for her atonement.
The work is one of several by the artist featuring a candlelit Mary Magdalene. | Source: © Wikipedia