Saint Mary the Egyptian and Saint Mary Magdalen, c. 1500-1503


Bequest of Herschel V. Jonesexpand_more  P.68.231

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These two former prostitutes offer rather extreme models of redemption.

Mary of Egypt made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to see the cross on which Jesus died, but an invisible force barred her from the shrine. Upon praying to the Virgin for help, pledging to live in chastity, she gained entrance and paid homage to the cross. A stranger then gave her three silver coins with which she purchased three loaves of bread. The loaves became her entire sustenance for her subsequent forty-seven-year sojourn in the desert.

Mary Magdalen holds a jar containing the perfume she used, along with her tears, to anoint Jesus’s feet. After witnessing his crucifixion and resurrection, she lived in the desert for thirty years, consuming neither food nor water and raised to heaven by angels several times each day.

Both women eventually received communion and promptly died thereafter.

Saint Mary the Egyptian and Saint Mary Magdalen
Artist Life
c. 1445–1503
Accession Number
Albertina Dupl. L.5g; Colnaghi; Kennedy, '25
Catalogue Raisonne
B.130; Holl. 384 ii/ii; LIX.309.384 Lehrs 384 ii/ii
Curator Approved

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