The Temptation of Saint Mary Magdalen

Johann Liss German

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 621

Born in northern Germany but active in Amsterdam, Rome, and Venice, Liss cultivated his style as he encountered different influences on his travels. He probably made this painting in Venice, and it responds to the sensuality and luscious brushwork of that city’s artistic tradition. Mary Magdalen, often invoked as a symbol of penance, is shown cradling a skull in her arms and rejecting worldly riches, offered by the figure on the left, in favor of an angel who bears the palm of victory. Her back-tilted head, half-closed eyes, and exposed breasts merge with the lush paint handling in an almost shocking eroticism.

The Temptation of Saint Mary Magdalen, Johann Liss (German, Oldenburg ca. 1595/1600–1631 Verona), Oil on canvas

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