Saint Mary Magdalen in Penitence
The penitent Mary Magdalen is depicted in a gesture of melancholy and located in a grotto surrounded by a rugged mountainscape. She is usually depicted naked, covered by her long hair, but here she is fully clothed, with her usual attributes of a cross and skull. Next to her books, Teniers has placed an unusual vegetable still life while the landscape has been enlivened with a waterfall, a heron, a rabbit and two kingfishers that all show the artist’s typical detailed study of nature.
This is one of Teniers’ earliest dated works. At this stage in his career he painted grottos in the style of Paul Bril and Joos de Momper as fitting settings for hermits and penitent saints. In Teniers’ View of an Artist Studio painted in 1635 (Private Collection), there are two paintings that closely resemble this work and Saint Peter in Penitence (DPG314), although one of the landscapes does not include a figure. Teniers might have added the saint only after he found a purchaser for the painting. The subject matter, therefore, could have been of secondary importance, as a painting with a similar grotto in the National Gallery of Art in Washington shows.