Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by Georges de La Tour

Maddalena penitente | Georges de la Tour

MAGDALENE WITH THE SMOKING FLAME BY GEORGES DE LA TOUR: MEANING AND WHERE TO SEE IT

What is the secret that makes Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by Georges de La Tour a charming painting?
Certainly the light but also the enveloping darkness, peculiar features of Georges de La Tour’s painting made up of characters lit by a simple candle, silent faces and absorbed in their own thoughts.

Where to see Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by Georges de La Tour and meaning of the painting

Georges de la Tour | Maddalena penitente

Georges de La Tour’s paintings are an original summary of Caravaggio’s lesson on the use of light in painting, even though the artist doesn’t forget the tradition of Flemish painting, the use of colour and “candlelight” effect.

DESCRIPTION OF MAGDALENE WITH THE SMOKING FLAME BY GEORGES DE LA TOUR

The scene depicted in Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by Georges de La Tour is set inside a dark and simple room.
Mary Magdalene is sitting in front of a desk, with long hair and absorbed in her thoughts. Her right hand is placed on a skull, her feet are bare and the white shirt leaves her shoulders naked, while the light comes from a lamp and illuminates the right side of her face.
Thanks to this light source we can see some books and the elements reminding the Passion of Christ and the fragile human life: a cross, a rope and a skull.

THE LIGHT IN MAGDALENE WITH THE SMOKING FLAME BY GEORGES DE LA TOUR

In Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by Georges de La Tour there’s only one source of light.
The French artist is the master of a technique that allows him to create cozy scenes and where mystery and silence seem to prevail.

The lamp, however, not only creates a moving atmosphere, but is also an element that alludes to the fragility of human life. The meaning is also evoked in the hand caressing the skull and is a reflection on the theme of death.
The flame and the skull represent the unavoidable time passing by and doesn’t allow you to come back to rectify the mistakes you made.

WHO MAGDALENE WITH THE SMOKING FLAME IS

Magdalene is Mary from Magdala, the woman cited in all four Gospels and who abandoned everything to follow Jesus until his death and the first to whom Jesus appears after his resurrection.
Georges de La Tour describes her as a woman who reflects on her life and human fragility, who can be seduced by sin and forget to follow God, and anyone can identify himself/herself with the scene depicted.

What strikes you more in this painting is not only the silent and enveloping atmosphere, but especially the condition of the woman that is common to anyone, because everyone at least once has reflected on his/her life and future.

WHERE TO SEE MAGDALENE WITH THE SMOKING FLAME BY GEORGES DE LA TOUR

Georges de La Tour’s painting, dating back to between 1640 and 1645, is housed at the Louvre Museum.
But the artist painted other paintings with the same subject, including The Repentant Magdalene of Washington on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

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