The Penitent Magdalene is an exquisite somber scene by Georges de la Tour where Mary Magdalene meditates on her past life of sin with true contrition. She is turned from us as if from shame but looks to the mirrored reflection of the Christian flame of faith. The picture is characterized by a bold contrast of light and dark as if a manifestation of the battle between virtue and sin in the human heart. On her lap is a skull, a memento mori or ‘reminder of death’: all earthly life will end before the Last Judgement will cleanse all of the truly penitent of their sins. de la Tour painted this sometime around 1625-50.
Georges de la Tour’s The Penitent Magdalene is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City