The Private Intellectual
Ecclesiastes-Based Real Estate Advice

Tuesday, July 19, 2011  

The Strange Career of St. Mary Magdalene

My new column for The Daily is up:

But Mary Magdalene is perhaps most famous as an ex-prostitute: a repentant woman of lust whose seven demonic vices were cast out by Jesus; who washed his feet with her tears of contrition; and who lived a life of chaste, sorrowful contemplation — whether of skulls or of her own sins — forever after.

As a consequence, Mary’s cult has long partaken of the fevered, moralistic conventions of male fantasy. De la Tour’s treatment actually counts as one of the more restrained. Another Frenchman, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, in his painting “Mary Magdalene in the Grotto” (1876), removed the skull and hid her face behind her writhing arms, reducing the beleaguered saint to a lewd mass of hair and naked flesh. Her predominant image in Western art has been as an object of pity, arousal and judgment, a one-woman symbol of everything wrong with the religion that revered her.

Find out what happens next!


posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 9:20 PM
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