Discovering Donatello’s Magdalene: a masterpiece in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence

Maddalena Donatello | opere Firenze

Sei pronto a fare un viaggio indimenticabile nel cuore di Firenze, immergendoti nella bellezza senza tempo di un capolavoro scultoreo? Con questo post ti guiderò alla scoperta della Maddalena di Donatello, una straordinaria opera d’arte che incanta con la sua raffinatezza e la sua profonda espressività. Preparati a lasciarti affascinare da questa figura carica di emozioni e simbolismi, mentre ti svelerò la sua storia, la sua collocazione e il recente restauro che ne ha restituito tutto il suo splendore. Benvenuto dove l’arte prende vita e ti cattura nel tempo.

Discovering Donatello’s Magdalene: a masterpiece in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence

Maddalena Donatello | Musei Firenze

Between 1453 and 1455, the celebrated artist Donatello devoted himself to the creation of Mary Magdalene for the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence. This work is an extraordinary example of veristic naturalism and represents a significant evolution from Donatello’s early classicism.
What makes this sculpture particularly unique is its material: white poplar wood. This choice was a challenge for the artist, as unlike stone or marble, wood does not allow for soft nuances, but Donatello skilfully used it to create dramatic contrasts.


Giorgio Vasari, a famous art historian, described Donatello’s Magdalene with admiration and wonder, highlighting how the artist was able to represent human interiority and sentiment.
Magdalene departs from traditional iconography, showing us a figure that embodies penance through fasting and abstinence. This choice represents a clear break with the usual representation of a young and beautiful Magdalene, as the artist wanted to show the woman consumed by years and penances, wrapped only in her long hair. It is a powerful image, mixing beauty and expressiveness in a single sculptural creation.

This is obviously not the only masterpiece you can admire in the city. If you want to discover other unmissable places to visit in Florence, I recommend you take a look at my guide on What to see in Florence.


The original presence of the statue in the Baptistery of Florence was confirmed by a payment from the Arte di Calimala, the patron, dating back to 1550. However, as early as 1494, Charles VII of Valois was so fascinated by Donatello’s Magdalene that he offered enormous sums of money for it.
Over the centuries, the work was moved several times, until the 1966 flood severely damaged it, prompting its transfer to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in 1972.

After a careful and massive restoration, entrusted to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, the statue has regained its original magnificence. Now, it is possible to admire Magdalene in the room dedicated to her in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence. This room has become a refuge for the restored work, where tourists, art lovers and visitors can immerse themselves in Donatello’s universe and be enchanted by his unique vision of Magdalene in penitence.

Maddalena Donatello

Donatello’s Magdalene is one of Donatello’s most interesting works and one of Florence’s most precious treasures and is definitely worth a visit during your stay in the city. The work of this great master of Tuscan art still speaks to us today with its extraordinary expressive power. Tracing the history of this sculpture, discovering its interpretation of penitence and admiring the fruit of the patient restoration that has returned it to its ancient beauty, is an unforgettable experience for art and culture lovers.

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