London – Westminster (Borough of) – National Gallery (Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Peter)

These two Saints (NG4491 and NG4492) are in the collections of the National Gallery, donated in 1930 in honour of Charles D Cumming. The two separate pieces are part of a larger altarpiece which has since been broken up, with other sections in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome and also in private collections. They date from around 1350 and it isn’t known where the altarpiece was from, or when it was broken up.

The Mary Magdalene image is notable for, and I’ve taken this from the National Gallery web-site (I hardly knew this):

“The artist has taken great care to paint the ointment jar so that it resembles white marble with pink and blue veins. Its surface has a soft luminosity, an effect achieved by painting a thin layer of white paint over a base of layer of bright colours. This technique is known as scumbling.”

I’m not sure what look for Mary that the artist was intending, although it appears more grumpy than pensive. Anyway, that’s my contribution to the commentary on these artworks…

They think that there was a main panel with the Virgin Mary in the centre, with the two pieces in the gallery’s collections having once been positioned to the right of that. The arched panels at the top are more recent, as they were at some stage turned into rectangular artworks, so they could be displayed on a wall.

Although it’s not ideal from an artistic perspective, I quite like that the individual items that once formed part of a larger artwork are dotted around the world. It makes it more of a treasure hunt to locate them.