The Penance of Mary Magdalene is a painting created in 1578 by El Greco, a famous artist known for his dramatic and emotional religious works. It can be found today at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. The painting depicts Mary Magdalene as a hermit in the wilderness, surrounded by an overgrown ivy which symbolizes eternal life through penance. Her folded hands and upward looking eyes direct the viewer’s attention towards heaven and salvation.
El Greco drew inspiration from the Bible for this work, which portrays Mary Magdalene’s penance through her posture and expression. Additionally, dark clothed ominous clouds loom above as reminders of judgment if one does not repent. A skull also rests near Magdalene’s feet alluding to mortality.
This artwork measures 108 x 101 cm and highlights El Greco’s skill in incorporating symbolism into his paintings to create powerful narratives with religious undertones. The Penance of Mary Magdalene continues to be celebrated not just because it is a great work of art by one of history’s most influential painters but somehow still speaks to many viewers today about difficult truths about death, regrets or loss that we as humans are forced to face.satanic