PIERRE PUVIS DE CHAVANNES
St. Mary Magdalene in the Desert
Oil on canvas
Inv. No. 1457 (Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e. V.)
157 × 106 cm
The painter Puvis de Chavannes devoted the bulk of his efforts in France to creating monumental wall paintings for public spaces and churches, and that is evident in this work. Absorbed in the contemplation of a skull, the penitent Mary Magdalene stands like a statue in the middle of the painting as the patron saint of Provence, in the chalk hills of the Chaîne de la Sainte-Baume near Marseille. With its clear composition and the silvery hues of rock and sky, the painting embodies a classical harmony, for which the painter was universally known and admired. This successful eccentric was adored by conservative academicians and champions of modernity alike.