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The Conversion of Mary Magdalene

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

The Conversion of Mary Magdalene

Artist: Federico Zuccaro (Italian, c. 1540–1609)
Culture: Italian
Date: c. 1563
Medium: Oil on canvas
10 x 21 1/4 inches (25.4 x 54 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Museum purchase with additional funds provided by the Friends of the Duke University Museum of Art
Label Text:This work, along with the related work on paper (1984.25.1), represents different stages in the preparation of a large fresco created for the Grimani Chapel in the church of San Francesco della Vigna in Venice, Italy. Because the final painting no longer survives, these preliminary images offer viewers an idea of how the fresco may have ultimately appeared, while also providing a valuable glimpse of the artist’s working process.

The subject is believed to be the conversion of Mary Magdalene from a prostitute into a follower of Christ. Fancily dressed with jewels and seated next to her sister Martha, the Magdalene listens to Christ from across the temple while a crowd gathers to observe. In this painted version, seven demons (Luke 8:2) are seen floating away from the Magdalene’s head, cast out by Christ, who gestures from an elevated position under a golden canopy.

One of three major paintings by Zuccaro for the Grimani Chapel (including an Adoration of the Magi and Raising of Lazarus), The Conversion of Mary Magdalene would have formed a cohesive cycle in an intimate religious setting. As patron, Giovanni Grimani (c.1500- 1593) would have viewed each preparatory work created by the artist and negotiated changes, such as the colors and composition. Due to the close similarities between the two versions in the Nasher Museum's collection (1984.25.1 and 1984.25.2), it is thought they were completed late in the planning process and therefore closely resemble the fresco at its completion.

Provenance: New York private collection. Purchased 1984 through (Galdy Galleries Ltd, NY) by Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 1984.25.2