Vouet worked in Rome for several years before he was summoned back to France in 1627 to serve as court painter to King Louis XIII. This painting, executed soon after his return, reveals how skillfully Vouet adapted his Italian experiences to local tastes: the focus on a single monumental figure, positioned close to the picture plane, reflects the influence of Caravaggio, but the vivid pastel colors accord with the French preference for a brighter palette. Representations of the penitent Magdalene—expressing Christian devotion but also sensuality—were exceedingly popular in the 1600s.
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