All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Noa Turel

Advisory Committee Members

Tanja Jones

Heather McPherson

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2014

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

This thesis shows that the vita panel of Mary Magdalen, now exhibited in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, was originally commissioned for a convertite house, rather than a mendicant monastery, as had been hitherto suggested. Painted c. 1280 by the Florentine painter known as the Magdalen Master, the work features a hair-clad Magdalen flanked by eight scenes from her life and legend. There is no extant documentation regarding the panel's commission. This thesis offers the Florentine convertite house of Santa Maria Maddalena as the likeliest original location for the Accademia Magdalen. Founded c. 1257, this institution was among the first of many convertite houses to appear across Europe in the wake of thirteenth-century prostitution reform, designed to shelter and convert prostitutes. The investigation focuses on three main sources of evidence: the visual, the social, and the historical. The visual aspect of the research shows that the iconography and structure of the panel indicate female viewership, and specifically reflect an audience of convertite women. The social facet examines the wider context of medieval religious reform in Europe and the subsequent emergence of convertite foundations. This thesis is the first attempt at reconstructing the history of artwork within the early convertite houses. Showing that the Accademia Magdalen was likely created for such a setting, this study furthermore explores the possibility that this vita panel was one of the first in a long tradition of Magdalen imagery within convertite institutions, a tradition that persisted throughout the Renaissance. The historical context of Florence during the years surrounding the creation of the panel also adds to the mounting evidence for Santa Maria Maddalena as a likely commissioning institution for the panel. During this time, the Angevin King, Charles I, was chief administrator of justice in Florence when in 1279, his son discovered the remains of Mary Magdalen in Provence, an event that quickly spread her cult to Naples and Florence via the ruling House of Anjou. As the royal family was a known patron of Magdalen imagery and institutions, the creation of the panel c. 1280 as well as details in its iconography strongly indicate Angevin influence on the commission and further points to Santa Maria Maddalena as the most plausible original institution for the Accademia Magdalen.

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