Monday, June 20, 2011


Title: Mary Magdalen Raised by Angels
Artist: Giovanni Lanfranco
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 109 x 78 cm
Date: c. 1616
Location: Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.


Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples. In the New Testament she is mentioned among the women who accompanied and ministered to Christ (Luke 8:2-3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. She is referred to in early Christian writings as "the apostle to the apostles", and in apocryphal texts she is portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement. Several Gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary, written in the early 2nd century, see Mary as the special disciple of Jesus who has a deeper understanding of his teachings and is asked to impart this to the other disciples.

Giovanni Lanfranco, as a pupil of Annibale Carracci, was asked to provide decorations for a palazzetto behind Palazzo Farnese. In keeping with the character of the building, a casino in a garden, they represented mythological episodes. A few years later, Cardinal Odoardo Farnese added a small room to the Palazzetto Farnese as a Christian retreat, and Lanfranco was responsible for its entire decoration. This work consisted of four large frescoes, and nine ceiling panels, only two of which survived. One of the surviving works, Mary Magdalen Raised by Angels, takes it’s cue from the French tradition where it is said Magdalene retired to a hill, La Sainte-Baume, and at the time of her death was carried by angels into the oratory of St. Maximinus, where she received the viaticum.

Giovanni Lanfranco (January 1582 - November 1647) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period. His talent for drawing allowed him to begin an apprenticeship with the Bolognese artist Agostino Carracci, brother of Annibale Carracci, working alongside fellow Parmese Sisto Badalocchio in the local Farnese palaces. When Agostino died in 1602, both young artists moved to Annibale's large and prominent Roman workshop. Lanfranco painted many religious decorations for churches and palaces in Rome. Lanfranco explored new styles, bridged traditions, painted in both mannerist and baroque styles, using a tenebrist and a vivid colorist palette. He died in Rome in 1647, where his last work was apse of San Carlo ai Catinari.

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