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Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Anne Simonson

Subject Areas

Art history


Since the revival of seventeenth-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi in 1968, much of the scholarship on the artist has been largely driven by feminist motives and focused on her several renditions of Judith and Susanna, leaving much of her oeuvre unexamined. Among these paintings is the Mary Magdalene currently in the possession of the Seville Cathedral in Spain. The objective of this study was to resolve the issues surrounding the painting's dating, to establish this canvas as an autograph painting, and, more importantly, to examine the meaning of this image. Existing research and the opinions of well-respected scholars were combined with an investigation of Artemisia's oeuvre and relevant biographical information to develop the arguments presented in this thesis. It was determined this painting is best dated circa 1622 and that it is, in fact, autograph. Following an examination of the Magdalene tradition and imagery, Artemisia's understanding of the saint and iconography were utilized in determining the significance of this painting. This image of the saint is Artemisia's declaration of Mary Magdalene as an intellectual in the moment of waking from a meditative sleep in which she received divine inspiration that led to her conversion. Although Mary Magdalene has been painted countless times, this specific moment has no Biblical or legendary source and therefore was invented by the artist, making this canvas perhaps the grandest example of Artemisia's extraordinary and unparalleled talent for invenzione.