Lippo Memmi, Italian, Mary Magdalene, ca. 1330, Tempera and gold on panel; 49.5 x 22.5 cm (19 1/2 x 8 7/8 inches), Museum Appropriation Fund 21.250
This small panel depicting Mary Magdalene holding a jar of ointment was originally part of an altarpiece from a Franciscan church in Colle di Val d’Esta, near Siena. Memmi’s highly refined drawing and soft, clear color are characteristics of a style of painting that flourished in 14th century Siena, building on the rhythmic lines found in the works of Duccio and further emphasizing naturalism and movement. The scale and shape of the Magdalene panel suggest it had been a pinnacle segment, once situated in a polyptych whose two-tiered wings flanked a central image of the Madonna and Child. Figures in both levels were portrayed against a gold ground, holding identifying attributes. Other components of the Colle Val d’Esta altarpiece have been identified in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, and elsewhere. Stylistically linked to the Magdalene, they also bear similar decorative punchmark patterns in the halos and in the periphery of the panels.