In La Tour’s The Penitent Magdalene, he creates a painting of a contemplative scene that lends itself to being contemplated by the viewer. This is a common theme in renderings of Mary Magdalene. Artists often portray her as a beautiful woman lost in thought. This draws the viewers into contemplation, and the expression on Magdalene's face encourages the consideration of measured thought.
Georges de La Tour, The Penitent Magdalen, ca. 1640, Oil on canvas, 52 1/2 x 40 1/4 in.
Mary Magdalene’s face is turned away from the viewers towards a mirror, but the viewers can conclude that she is a young beautiful woman. Her form on the left takes up almost half the space. Her graceful pose appears relaxed as she looks away from the spectators into the alluring darkness. La Tour creates a painting of a contemplative scene that lends itself to being contemplated by the viewer. The Magdalen's posture provides a model for the viewer: we look where she's looking and the dim lighting, encourages the visual seeking
Georges de La Tour, Magdalene with the Smoking Flame, 1640, Oil on canvas, 46 1/4 × 36 1/8 in, 117.5 × 91.8 cm
Similar to La Tour’s The Penitent Magdalene, the light, the focal point of the painting, draws the viewer into contemplation, and the expression on Magdalene's face, the placement of her head into her hand, and the radiating glow from the candle also encourages the viewer to wonder what she is thinking. Magdalene is more sexualized in this rendering. Showing her shirt coming off her shoulders and her skirt pulled up. This is to remind viewers of her past as a prostitute and to emphasize her repentance.
Caravaggio, Penitent Magdalene, 1597, oil on canvas, 122.5 x 98.5 cm (Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome)
The Penitent Magdalen, Corrado Giaquinto , ca. 1750 ,Oil on canvas, 63 x 46 1/2 in. (160 x 118.1 cm)
Giaquinto depicts Mary Magdalene weakly leaning against a rock looking upwards at a crown of thorns carried by a cherub. However, a closer angel tries to direct her attention upwards to heaven, but Mary is focused on the crown instead. Her figure is muscular, masculine, yet still notably beautiful. The still life of consists of a skull, a crucifix, and a book (possibly a breviary) open to a page with an illustration of the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Guido Reni, The Penitent Magdalene, 1635, Oil on canvas, 91 x 74 cm
With her ivory skin and long golden hair, Magdalene turns her gaze upwards. She is depicted in an in a seductive manner. The cross and the skull make it clear she is meditating on the brevity of life and the salvation of Christ's death. This painting is idealized, as well as classical. This is apparent in Magdalene's rounded features, her smoothly painted skin is in contrast with the broad, heavy strokes used for her robe.
Donatello, Mary Magdalene, c. 1455, wood, 188 cm (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence)
Mary is shown a hermit with her hands about to be clasped in prayer. She’s old and frail looking. She's got muscles on her arms but she's still thin and frail looking. Her body is exposed to us, clothed only with her long hair, which is one of her attributes. This figure used to be painted, you can see traces of red and gold on her hair. Her body was clearly beautiful at on point in her life- high cheekbones, tall graceful contrapposto pose. Her face is very intense almost as if her life has wasted away.