Leonardo da Vinci

pen and ink drawing of female religious figure holding an object, drawn twice

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
Studies for Saint Mary Magdalene
c. 1480–82
Pen and brown ink
Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

Leonardo used drawing as a means of developing compositional ideas. In these two sketches he explored the turning half-length figure of Mary Magdalene in preparation for a devotional painting otherwise only documented in works by the artist's followers. Starting with the larger version, he added the more summary drawing below. There the saint gazes directly at the viewer while lifting the lid of a jar of oil, an attribute that refers to her anointing of Christ's feet.

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