After Antonio Canova; A Late 19thC Italian Marble Sculpture of The Repentant Magdalene

Origin: Italian
Period: Late 19thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1890-1900
Depth: 12”
Height: 15”
Width: 11” (each)

The finely carved marble figure depicting the Penitent or Repentant Magdalene after the original by After Antonio Canova (1757 - 1822), fluidly modelled downcast in kneeling position with a skull by her side to a rocky outcrop, the whole apparently unsigned and surviving from the latter part of nineteenth century Italy.

There are repairs to the upheld hands and two losses to the fingers as photographed which is reflected in her price. There are some small scuffs and scratches elsewhere commensurate with use and age. We cannot see a signature, but she is clearly well carved as the details such as the rope, hair and billowed gown are all crisp and well defined.

The Penitent or Repentent Magdalene is a marble sculpture of Mary Magdalene by Antonio Canova, about 90 cm high, known in two final versions, now in Genoa and St Petersburg.

The difficulties in elaborating the theme had led Canova to produce two very different
preparatory works. The original version of 1793-1796 was praised at the Salon of 1808, the first of Canova's works to be a success there.  Canova also produced another version between 1808 and 1809 for Eugène de Beauharnais, viceroy of Italy, who exhibited it in his palace in Munich.

The initial preparatory work showed the head raised and the arms crossed, but in the final 1808-1809 work the head are lowered and the hands holding a gilded bronze cross, though that is missing in the 1808-1809 version, either subsequently lost or more likely since mixed-medium sculptures were not accepted in France at that time. This example is after the second fashioned, as it lacks said cross. The original second version is now part of the collection of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. It wasn’t until it was displayed at the Paris Salon of 1808, the first time it was on public display, that it received the credit it deserved. This was a period in which Canova was already one of the leading artists in Europe, receiving commissions from the highest levels in France and England.

The story of the perceived sinful woman named Mary Magdalene has been a very popular one in the world of art and she has been depicted by various sculptors and painters such as Donatello, El Greco, and Caravaggio, to name just a few. The exact role of Mary Magdalene, who was referred to as one of the most prominent followers of Jesus Christ and who witnessed both the Crucifixion and Entombment of Jesus Christ, remains obscure. Canova produced multiple preparatory sketches before he eventually settled on a sculpture that depicts Mary Magdalene kneeling.

A super quality sculpture carved with real aplomb.