Mary Magdalene: from apostle and sinner to Lady Gaga’s muse



What does Mary Magdalene have to do with Kardashian or Lady Gaga? Her mysterious life inspired medieval masters and contemporary artists for centuries, starred in legends and revealed herself in various ways, from a disciple of Jesus, to a sinner and a feminist. Now he has his own exhibition in the Netherlands.

Mary Magdalene is a mirror of time, appearing in the New Testament, the Da Vinci Code, the movies of Hollywood, medieval paintings or contemporary art. Being one of the most mysterious women in the Bible, little is known with certainty about her and its stories are fragmentary and contradictory: scholars, believers and artists try to decipher it, sometimes drawing inspiration from or clinging to theories that are difficult to confirm.

All these facets are part of an exhibition at the Museum of the Santa Catalina Convent (Catharijneconvent), in the Dutch city of Utrecht, which opens to the public this Friday. The religious art gallery takes a tour of the life of María Magdalena, “a woman of extremes, which has been an inspiration for more than 2,000 years ”, he emphasizes.

Lieke Wijnia, curator of the exhibition, explains to Efe that the objective is “show it in different religious traditions, from Eastern to Western Christianity “and describes that” she is recognized as a beautiful woman, with beautiful hair, made up, with luxurious clothes and jewels, but also as a hermit who wears nothing, except a simple cloth and a loose hair, two such different representations of the same woman ”.

Her bless, tempt, cry, pray, proclaim, repent and perform miracles, is considered an apostle, penitent sinner, lover and sensual female, witness of the resurrection, hermit, mystic, prostitute and author of miracles, incarnations of her person that reflected the spirit of times and ways in which women were considered in various times.

In the exposed writings, the Evangelists Mark and Luke describe her as a woman named Mary, from the city of Magdala, possessed by demons until Jesus cured her, and she became one of his followers. They all say that she was present at the crucifixion of Jesus and that three days after his burial, she discovered the empty tomb and became the first to meet the risen Jesus.

The stories that emerged about his figure are based on written sources from the first centuries after Christ, and four are included in the Bible and are attributed to the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They describe her as a devout and wealthy woman, with an active role in the most important moments of Jesus’ life. In the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, several translations of Christian texts from the first three centuries of that era were found. Mary Magdalene appears as a insightful and wise woman, favorite student of Jesus and teacher of other disciples, who later became apostles.

One of the pieces on display is a fragment of the 5th century Codex Akhmim, from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. In this Gospel of Mary, discovered by chance in the Egyptian city of Akhmim, a treasure of spiritual wisdom is disclosed.

The oldest representation comes from the museum’s own collection and dates back to the 11th century, while the most recent work was painted in late 2020 by Dutch artist Helen Verhoeven. “For many believers, she was a role model and a figure of hope, love and dedication”Adds Wijnia, who for two years investigated all the sources on the figure of María Magdalena.

He was the protagonist of Christian history, but also from the ‘Judas’ video clip, in which Lady Gaga plays her in his dilemma of choosing a pure and true Jesus, or Judas, danger and glamor. At the end of the video, dressed as Jesus’ bride, she is stoned by an angry crowd, characterizing the Mary Magdalene of collective memory.

It also gives the title to the most recent album by English singer FKA Twigs (2019), in which she appears as an independent woman who has had to fight to be heard and believed. The photo on the reverse of the cover shows a relaxed girl looking at the world, penetrating, as she does in the painting Miskend (2020), by the Dutch Egbert Modderman.

In addition, it inspired the artist David La Chapelle in ‘Mary Magdalene receives the holy spirit’ (2018, Reflex Gallery Amsterdam). The model is Kim Kardashian, “Known for using her body to gain fame and fortune, something for which she is praised and criticized,” which is compared to the way in which Mary Magdalene is said to display her body. Legend or fact, the visitor decides.

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