This beautifully modelled terracotta by the Tuscan sculptor Antonio Novelli, relates to one of Novelli’s most important marbles, the standing figure of Mary Magdalene executed in 1649 and later acquired by Queen Christina of Sweden. This terracotta has been rendered in a genuinely baroque manner as evidenced by the saint’s open and spiralling pose which allows the viewer to observe her in 180 degrees. There is a tension in the composition since she does not sit but also does not yet stand, but in fact what is depicted is the transitory moment of miracle when, as described in her popular legend by Jacobus de Voragine, she is taken by angels to Paradise to be fed on heavenly sustenance. In our terracotta the saint has just become aware of the Angels approach and looks up at them in expectation, all of which is subtly captured by Novelli.
This terracotta appears to have been destined for private devotion, probably as a result of an aristocratic commission, such works were avidly collected in Florence at this time by a clientele anxious to show off their culture and erudition. It is perhaps due to this work being destined for a private space that we can get an intimate look at the sculptors working practice, in his finely rendered surfaces and the imprints of his fingers and tools in the clay.