Gerolamo Pesce
Glory of St. Mary Magdalene

1739
Fresco
Ceiling of the sacristy
Church of La Maddalena, Rome

A "Glory of…" ceiling pictures a saint's ascent to Heaven. Literature at the church identifies this saint as Mary Magdalene, but the artist has chosen to use Marian iconography to picture her. The hand on the breast is used as a gesture of humility in some Annunciation images, and the portrait is strongly influenced by images of the Immaculate Conception: a blue mantle, a "crown" of 12 stars, and a background consistent with the "clothed with the sun" image of Revelation 12:1.

In Immaculate Conception images of the 18th century and later the dragon of Revelation often becomes a slender snake whose head is under the saint's foot (example), like the serpent whom God told that "the woman" would "crush thy head" with her heel (Genesis 3:15). This is also adopted by our artist. (See this detail.)

On the other hand, virtually nothing of the iconography of Mary Magdalene is to be seen in this fresco. Indeed, were it not for the imagery of ascent and the absence of a crescent moon it would be hard to argue with a suggestion that this is simply an Immaculate Conception that has been misidentified.

The figures "below" the woman (see detail) are Camillo de Lellis (on the left, with red crosses on his stole) and St. Philip Neri.

See a closer view of the central figure and read more about St. Mary Magdalene and the Immaculate Conception.

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