Simone Pignoni - Mary Magdalene
Oil on canvas (relined). 112 x 136.5 cm.
In this dramatic composition, the Florentine painter Simone Pignoni depicts Mary Magdalene in a landscape in a semi-recumbent position with her arms outstretched. The figure of the saint is placed diagonally and occupies the left half of the picture, contrasting with the panoramic landscape view beneath a deep blue sky on the right. In the lower left corner of the image we see the saint's attribute, the skull placed on an open book. The cloth that covers her body is painted in a valuable blue pigment derived from lapis lazuli. The dramatic character of the composition is enhanced by the light illuminating the scene from above.
The present work was only recently discovered in an Italian private collection and, as Sandro Bellesi states in his expertise, it can be regarded as one of the most significant new additions to the oeuvre of Simone Pignoni. Pignoni initially learnt to paint as a pupil of Domenico Cresti, called Il Passignano, in the 1620s. More decisive for his development, however, was his collaboration with Franceso Furini, from whom he adopted a soft, sensual style and a preference for emotional, expressive scenes.
Pignoni painted the motif of Mary Magdalene several times. There exist two similar versions in the Koelliker Collection in Milan and the Galleria Palatina in Florence (see Gerhard Ewald: Simone Pignoni. A little-known Florentine Seicento Painter, in: The Burlington Magazine 106, 1964, pp. 218-226, and Francesca Baldassari: Simone Pignoni (Firenze 1611-1698), Turin 2008). According to Sandro Bellesi, however, this painting shows a higher degree of artistic maturity than these two versions, so that he suggests dating it to the late 1640s or the 1650s.
Sandro Bellesi, Sesto Fiorentino, 2018.