Martha and Mary

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  • Oil on Canvas: 1598
  • 97,8 x 132,7 cm
  • Institute of Arts, Detroit

According to the gospels, Martha and Mary were sisters of Lazarus, and particularly good friends of Jesus who frequently stayed at their house in Bethany. During the middle ages, however, popular piety began to identify the sinning woman taken in adultery, usually known as Mary Magdalen, as Mary the sister of Martha. Caravaggio's painting offers an iconographically twist to this theme. It shows Martha reproaching Mary Magdalene for her vanity. Only later will Mary convert.

Here, the religious theme is treated in a substantially profane manner. It is a pretext for making passages of highly intensive painting and for constructing an image that is more of a genre scene of two women arguing than a religious one.

Yet this was one of Caravaggio's major goals: to make religious issues the same as daily issues.


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