Georges de La Tour — "Magdalene". details. 1635-1650
Silesian, Poland, 1353
Tempera colors, colored washes, and ink on parchment; bound between wood boards covered with red-stained pigskin
13 7/16 x 9 3/4 in.
MS. LUDWIG XI 7, FOL. 12V
Within the sequence of narrative illuminations illustrating the life of Saint Hedwig, this image is unique. Rather than depicting an event in her life, the image portrays the saint as a focus for devotion. The artist presented her not only as an object of veneration for the manuscript’s patrons, Duke Ludwig and his wife Agnes, shown kneeling on either side of her, but also for the readers of the manuscript.
The image is rich in symbols that remind the viewer of various aspects of Hedwig’s life. Her sumptuous garments indicate her aristocratic heritage, but over her right arm she carries her delicate slipperlike boots, a reference to the fact that she went barefoot in imitation of the apostles. In her right hand she grasps a statuette of the Virgin and Child, a sign of her devotion to the Virgin, while just beneath her hand, her rosary is prominently pinned to her robes. She also carries a prayer book, with her fingers marking her place to suggest that she will soon return to her prayers. The image is the most monumental and artistically accomplished miniature in the book, painted in rich, opaque colors, without the colored washes used in the narrative scenes.