A brief overview of Mary Magdalene in early Renaissance Art 1500s
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
I find renaissance art so alluring not just because it is incredibly incredibly beautiful, but because it is packed with hidden symbolism that many of us do not understand nor even see. Hidden in plain sight.
A great example of this is Holy or Sacred Allegory painted by Bellini in around 1490. Details are in these painting images #1,2,3. It is packed with occult symbolism. Accounts differ about the symbolism of the iconography and as to who the figures are themselves. From the chequered floor to a crowned Mary Magdalene kneeled with a sword poised above her, to bless her or behead her? She sits kneeled before Mary Mary, lower down than her, and yet Mother Mary seems to bow to her. Magdalene makes the sign of an upward pyramid with her hands. Mary herself is on a throne under a baldachin whose support is in a cornucopian shape, which is a symbol of the Goddess and of fertility. Is that a golden apple on the throne in between the 2 Marys? There is a woman hovering in black to the far left, again a supposed reference to Magdalene who was said by St Maximus to float as she prayed to the angels, or is it? Does this woman in black look at Mary Magdalene or the 4 children in the centre? The two semi-nude saints on the right are named as the hermit Onuphrius (from his wild appearance and tanned skin) and yet named by others as Job, and next to him is the martyr Saint Sebastian with the arrow through his shoulder. Outside the parapet is St. Joseph (although in some accounts he is named as St. Peter and also as St John) looking at the children. Next to him is St. Paul with his sword, hovering above Mary Magdalene and yet behind the parapet, he clearly holds the vine of the royal bloodline. Four children play around a tree of life, some of them holding fruit. Anthony the Great is also depicted in the background descending the stairs to meet a centaur. The key symbolism is of course that Mary Magdalene wears a crown. She holds such a beautiful energy. But I can't help but feel she is a lamb about to be slaughtered with the sword above her head and the pyramid sign, (also a gesture in all the other hand postures), she reminds me of Marie Antoinette who I have just been writing about, and looks so vulnerable in her beauty. Even though the baby at the base of the tree of life is central to the painting, the energy that holds it all is the crowned Magdalena in blue and red awaiting her fate.
Bellini often painted the Madonna and child and in some of these, as in many paintings, I have often wondered if the Madonna and her Child may in fact be Mary Magdalene and her child? Painting 5 is particularly interesting as her child holds his hands around her neck in an uncompromising way and this to me seems to hold a symbolic message as to the future of Magdalena, a little like the sword poised above her head in painting no.1 as she almost sacrifices herself to her divine mission. (paintings 4 & 5)
Bellini was obviously aware of the great influence of Magdalena, see paintings below (#6,7,8). I find this depiction of Mary Magdalene on the right strikingly powerful.
Around the same time 1510 Cima da Conegliano painted the Mother & Child with prominent reds and a very prominent Mary Magdalene by the side of the Madonna (#9), as well as his painting of the 3 saints which are described as Lucy on the far right, but to me this is so obviously Mary Magdalene again (#10).
Of course the most important example that I always refer to is The Birth of Venus by Botticelli circa1485, which is never described as Mary Magdalena, but is so obviously her. The painting is packed full of her symbolism (naked, red hair, shell, red throw, water - magdalene is mistress of the waters, the reference to the 'fleur de lis' on the dress etc etc), yet this is undeniable when compared to a sculpture carved around the same time that was throughout time entitled Mary Magdalene (both in image #11). The Mary Magdalene sculpture is now in the Louvre, but was originally from a church in Augsburg. Botticelli was funded by the Medici family who were patrons for some key artists at the time. The Medici family would have been educated in spiritual occult symbolism embedded in their art works and perhaps they actually subsidised artists specifically to do just that - to paint certain codes and symbols associated with the Magdalene Christ bloodline.
11 - The Birth of Venus next to the Magdalene sculpture from the same era.
Virgin of the rocks by Leonardo da Vinci was again painted at a similar time (1483), and it was actually painted twice, possibly 3 times, for varied reasons. In one of them he paints a prominent arum lily below her feet, which is one of Magdalene’s symbols, and a symbol of the bride. Da Vinci never said this was a Madonna, he called her Notre Dame, and Notre Dame, meaning ‘our lady’, was actually the title used by Troubadours for Mary Magdalene, hence some people like the author Laurence Gardner suppose that this painting is in fact the Magdalene family (image 12) I cannot be sure if this is the Magdalene family and I also wonder if the figure on the right with wings is Mary Magdalene. It has been pointed out by some that the baby on the right makes a baphomet hand sign, and that the baby on the far left could be John the Baptist who was popular in art at that time again due to the secret beliefs of his truth, indeed as the Priory of Sion supposes, in the religion of Mandeaism which gave roots to the Essenes, they dress in white, work with water rites and worship John the Baptist as the messiah. There is a huge amount to suppose about the iconography in this painting especially in relation to the hand gestures, and I will leave it to the viewer to wonder more about those. One can also read the backstory on line around the issue of full payment being refused by the initial commissioners for unknown reasons, what did they not like about the painting? It went into the hands of the law at one point ending up in Fontainblue. As with all painting when one reads the public descriptions one must read between the lines and one thing is for sure, this is a painting that holds many secrets.
I myself also wonder if the Madonna by Da Vinci in 1490 in image #13 is actually Mary Magdalene?
This is a wide subject that you can delve into much deeper, but this is just a very brief overview, so I will simply end with the following.
For me there is absolutely no doubt that paintings such as Madonna and Child by Pedro Berruguete,1500 (#14) and Lucca Madonna by Jan van Eyck 1436 (#15) both of them in red, with red hair, are so obviously beautifully similar to Luca Signorilli painting of Magdelana 1450 (#16), Saint Mary Magdalen Holding a Crucifix 1400 by Spinello (#17), and Timoteo Viti’s The St. Mary Magdalene in her cave 1500 (#18)
...and thus they are quite obviously thus not the Madonna at all,
but in fact they are the beautiful Goddess / Queen / Wife of Jesus Christ / Priestess - the Crowned Mary Magdalene.
Hidden in plain sight.