Donatello's carved statue of the Repenitent Mary Magdalen engages a flurry of mixed emotions. I am lost in my minds eye, picturing what this beautiful woman must have endured. This once lovely creature now a shriveled, sad resemblance of her former self. Her long blonde locks are dirty and look as though they are needed to help keep her warm among her skant, tattered clothing. Her sad, sullen eyes have a way of looking at you as if asking you to search the depths of your own soul. How could the two meter tall statue not commands attention? The dark poplar wood resembles sun-withered skin and Magdalen's uneasy stance show her humbleness. She no longer looks to this world for any satisfaction and as her beauty fades her repentance is strengthened. Her hands almost together in prayer, nails dirty and broken like her teeth, her mouth appears to be ready to speak the words "forgive me God, for I am a sinner". Her complete devotion is obvious and even conjour shame in the reality that my faith falls so short of it, as I'm sure others feel and why they find her repulsive. The passion and adroitness show what a master Donatello truly was.
Born Donato di Niccolò Bardi in 1386, he was raised and apprenticed in Florence. Ghiberti began teaching Donatello in 1403, and by age 17, he was working on the bronze reliefs of the First Doors of the Baptistery. In 1407, he left Ghiberti and began his works for the Cathedral. In 1454-1455, when Donatello carved the Magdalen, he had lived a long life and had seen much suffering and probably felt his own mortality. Donatello most likely created the Magdalen for the convent at Santa Maria di Cestello, yet there is no proof of that. It is believed the statue intended to provide inspiration and comfort to the repentant prostitutes housed there.