'Mary Magdalene leaving the house of feasting', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A young woman with long red hair and a halo walking down steps

Watercolour on paper, dated 1857, 35.6 x 20.6, Tate. Purchased 1911

This was made as a companion picture for 'Mary Nazarene', contrasting the penitent Magdalene with the purity of the Virgin. The Magdalene holds the jar of ointment that she used to anoint Christ's feet. Her hair is traditionally shown long and loose, both for its erotic associations and because she used it to wipe Christ's feet. Her robe is red, symbolising passion. Christ is shown as a minute figure in the distance.

The simplified geometrical form of the steps, the well and buildings in the background appears to be based on the study of medieval manuscript illumination. Here, though, Rossetti has shown the steps covered in moss.