Pieter Cornelisz van Slingelandt
Holy Magdalene Penitent

1657
The Louvre

The museum's label suggests that the tree "symbolizes sin and the old world before Christ." Just so. Instead of the customary crucifix, we have a dead tree; instead of an ointment jar, a lightless lamp fallen that has fallen on its side, its shape echoed in the hourglass emptying beside it.  In the half light between us and the Magdalene, these all represent the false lights of the transient world from which she has been rescued. If we imagine that the scourge in her hand has done its work at the moment we are watching, we can think of her luminous body as a reflex of her now exalted soul and an image of the perfected body in which it is said all saints will be resurrected.

More of St. Mary Magdalene

Photographed at the Louvre by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.