Landscape with Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene (“Noli me tangere”) 1681
Accompanied by two other women, Mary Magdalene comes to anoint the corpse of Jesus, but finds the tomb empty. Suddenly she sees a gardener; in reality it is the resurrected son of God. Recognizing him, she reaches out to touch him, but he stops her with the words “Noli me tangere” (“Touch me not”).
Countless paintings have been devoted to this scene from the Bible. The artist was already eighty years of age when he incorporated it into a large landscape panorama. This hardly comes as a surprise, for Lorrain had always been a painter of sweeping views of valleys, hills and seas. His landscapes are never uninhabited, yet the figures play only a minor role – he sometimes even had them executed by an assistant. Lorrain created for himself a world of realistic-looking but nevertheless artificial landscape and architectural motifs which he endowed with ideal, classical beauty. With his sensitive handling of the light, he gave his paintings depth and atmosphere. As a result, his landscapes have a majestic and sublime quality while at the same time conveying a sense of the poetic, calm and idyllic. This combination of a wide, evocative landscape with a Biblical story will have triggered in Lorrain’s contemporaries a rare mixture of devout religious feeling and longing for faraway places.