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Title The Penitent Magdalen
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to Regnier, Nicolas (Flemish painter, ca.1590-1667)
Date Earliest about 1650
Date Latest about 1660
Description Mary Magdalene was a living example of Christ's forgiveness. Having repented of her worldly and sinful ways, she became one of Christ's most beloved followers. Painters have often depicted Mary Magdalene in penitential pose. The jar in the top left hand corner of the painting reminds us that it was Mary who brought an alabaster jar of precious unguent, with which she anointed Christ's feet at the feast in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Mark 14.3 and John 11.2). Regnier trained in Antwerp and then moved to Italy, first to Rome in 1615 and then to Venice. Under the influence of Guido Reni, he developed the type of languishing and abandoned female who masquerades as the Magdalene, Sophonisba, Artemisia, Cleopatra and others.
Current Accession Number 1958P4
Former Accession Number P.4´58
Subject religion (St Mary Magdalene)
Measurements 186.0 x 120 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased from Thomas Agnew & Sons 1958.
Provenance Count Vittori, Venice, until 1776; Thomas Moore Slade until c. 1791; Purchased from him by 4th Earl of Darnley, Cobham Hall (Buchanan, 1824, I, p. 329); Darnley collection sale, Cobham Hall, 22 July 1957, lot 329 as by G. Franceschini.
Principal Exhibitions La Pittura del Seicento a Venezia, Venice, 1959, cat. no. 88; Venetian Seventeenth Century Painting, National Gallery, London, 1979, cat. no. 30.
Publications Buchanan, W., Memoirs of Painting, 1824, p. 329; Zampetti, P. M., La Pittura del Seicento A Venezia (exh. Cat) Venice, 1959, p. 55, no. 88; Pallucchini, R.,La Pittura Veneziana del Seicento, Padua, 1960 - 61, p. 22; Grisieri, 'Le période Romaine de Vouet: deux tableaux inédites' in Art de France, 1961, pp. 322-3; Ivanoff, N., 'Nicholas Regnier', Arte antica e moderna, vol. 29, 1965, p. 19; Donzelli, C and Pilo, G., I pittori del seicento Veneto, Florence, 1967, p. 343; Zava-Boccazzi, F., 'Renieri, Nicolo', Le Muse, Milan, 1968, p. 39-40; Zampetti, A Dictionary of Venetian Painters, 1970, p. 106; Borea, Caravaggio e I Caravaggeschi a Palazzo Pitti (exh. cat.) 1970, p. 34; Waagen, G. F., Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 1854, pp. 21-2; Fantelli, P.L., Nicolo Renieri Pittor Flamengo: Storia Dell'Arte, vol. 9, 1974, p. 92; Catalogue of Paintings in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, 1960; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 122.
Notes Other versions in private collection, Prague; Dublin; Palazzo Durazzo Pallavinci, Genoa. Similar versions in New York, Detroit and Gallerie Sprovieri, Rome. However, all these versions are half length. A copy of 1958P4 is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

John Strange sale, 125 Pall Mall, 10 December 1789, lot 109, as by Nicolo Renieri,

'A Magdalen; being esteemed the chef-d'oeuvre of this distinguished master, who united, most agreeably, the Flemish with the Italian manner; painted in a great stile{sic;]; similar, in that respect to the celebrated Magdalen of Le Brun at Paris; a fine character, in the peculiar manner of the master, and reputed to be a portrait of one of his four beautiful daughters, also lovers and followers of the art, and whom the father, according to Zanetti, pag. 515, used commonly to introduce thus, occasionally in his pictures.'

Renier copied a full-length Magdalen by Caravaggio but it is impossible to determine the relationship between it and this composition.

Letters in gallery archives from Ashley Kibblewhite (1999) state that she owns a similarly sized (same width but 8§ shorter) painting by Renier called The Martyrdom of St Christina. Her painting has a canvas join running horizontally across the middle of the canvas, identical to that of 1958P4. It is possible that both canvases were extended by the artist on the request of a patron for a particular setting.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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