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Donatello's Repentant Mary Magdalene

Essay by   •  September 23, 2012  •  Essay  •  631 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,610 Views

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Donatello's carved statue of the Repenitent Mary Magdalen engages a flurry of mixed emotions. I am lost in my minds eye, picturing what this beautiful woman must have endured. This once lovely creature now a shriveled, sad resemblance of her former self. Her long blonde locks are dirty and look as though they are needed to help keep her warm among her skant, tattered clothing. Her sad, sullen eyes have a way of looking at you as if asking you to search the depths of your own soul. How could the two meter tall statue not commands attention? The dark poplar wood resembles sun-withered skin and Magdalen's uneasy stance show her humbleness. She no longer looks to this world for any satisfaction and as her beauty fades her repentance is strengthened. Her hands almost together in prayer, nails dirty and broken like her teeth, her mouth appears to be ready to speak the words "forgive me God, for I am a sinner". Her complete devotion is obvious and even conjour shame in the reality that my faith falls so short of it, as I'm sure others feel and why they find her repulsive. The passion and adroitness show what a master Donatello truly was.

Born Donato di Niccolò Bardi in 1386, he was raised and apprenticed in Florence. Ghiberti began teaching Donatello in 1403, and by age 17, he was working on the bronze reliefs of the First Doors of the Baptistery. In 1407, he left Ghiberti and began his works for the Cathedral. In 1454-1455, when Donatello carved the Magdalen, he had lived a long life and had seen much suffering and probably felt his own mortality. Donatello most likely created the Magdalen for the convent at Santa Maria di Cestello, yet there is no proof of that. It is believed the statue intended to provide inspiration and comfort to the repentant prostitutes housed there.

This impressive work with its intense ability to emotionally effect so strongly was and still is extremely successful in showing strength yet weakness, pride yet virtue, and horror yet beauty, simultaneously. Magdalen is stong like a war hero of today, her body is weak, beaten down and yet her strong will continues to fight for her beliefs. They are an inspiration to us all if for no other reason than their will to win the war, be it of sin or freedom.

She shows pride in God and her desire to follow Jesus and yet she is so humble and full of virtue to the point she did not eat and lived in a cave to prove the she could survive on Gods will alone. She shows her devotion by allowing God to guide her the way the rescue workers did during 9-11. They knew fear and danger was directly before them yet they pushed past their fears and fought to do what they felt was right, only guided by instincts and God. They looked at the bigger picture and realized that their life was not the most important thing and realized what God had intended for them to do on this earth.

This repentant woman frightens many with her frail body,

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