The Temptation of the Magdalene (c.1616-1617)

Jordaens, Jacob (1593-1678)

The Temptation of the Magdalene
Oil on panel, 126.2 × 96.8 cm
Art Institute of ChicagoChicago

In this half-length biblical painting, an aged woman offering tempting jewels—possibly the proprietor of a brothel—and an angel bestowing spiritual guidance battle for the soul of Mary Magdalene. A ghoulish demon emerges from the shadows in the background with a fistful of snakes, a menacing symbol of evil. Jacob Jordaens had already developed his own rich realism, with earthy figures and naturalistic shadows, by the time he executed this early work, probably for an upper-class home in his native Antwerp. (AIC)