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The Dance of Saint Mary Magdalene

Lucas van Leyden, Netherlandish (active Leiden), c. 1494 - 1533

Geography:
Made in Netherlands, Europe

Date:
1519

Medium:
Engraving

Dimensions:
Image and sheet: 11 5/16 × 15 1/2 inches (28.7 × 39.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1979-65-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, the Lola Downin Peck Fund, the Print Revolving Fund, and with funds contributed by various donors, 1979

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Label:
In a landscape full of captivating detail, the artist has compressed three episodes of Saint Mary Magdalene's exemplary life: in the foreground she promenades at dawn after a night of revelry; in the middle she rides out stag hunting in the midday sun; while in the far distance, outside the mountain cave where she fasted in solitary penitence for the last thirty years of her life, angels lift her heavenward for a celestial feast. In each scene, Mary Magdalene wears a halo to mark her future sainthood.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Early writers and artists elaborated the legend of Mary Magdalen's progress from sin to sanctity in songs, religious pageants, fresco cycles, and illuminated manuscripts, making her the most popular female saint of the waning Middle Ages. In a single picture full of captivating detail Lucas van Leyden, a printmaking prodigy of the early sixteenth century, compresses three episodes of her exemplary life, in each of which she wears a halo to mark her future sainthood: in the foreground she promenades at dawn after a night of revelry; in the middle she rides out stag hunting in the midday sun; while in the far distance, outside the mountain cave where she fasted in solitary penitence for the last thirty years of her life, she is lifted heavenward by angels for a celestial feast. The masterpiece of his maturity, Lucas's Dance of Saint Mary Magdalen is a marvel of subtle atmospheric effects of light and shadow that can only be appreciated in early proofs such as this, before the artist's silvery burin lines quickly wore down under the repeated pressure of the printing press. John Ittmann, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 216.

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