St. Mary Magdalene Washing the Feet of Christ
Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne
Illuminated by Jean Poyer
126 x 80 mm
The Pierpont Morgan Library, Purchased in 1905
MS M.50 (fol. 18v)
This prayer book was commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, wife of two successive kings of France, Charles VIII and Louis XII, to teach her son, the dauphin Charles-Orland (1492–1495), his catechism. It was painted in Tours by Jean Poyer, an artist documented as working for the queen. The book is richly illustrated, and its thirty-four airy, light-flooded miniatures are among the most delicate examples of late-fifteenth-century art.
St. Mary Magdalene Washing the Feet of Christ (fol. 18v, left)
Mary Magdalene, a former prostitute, kneels under Simon the Pharisee's table. She washes Christ's feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, then kisses and anoints them.
Christ is the dominant figure in this miniature, even though it illustrates the Suffrage to the Magdalene. Her characteristic humility, made famous by her dramatic gesture, is intensified by Poyer's placing her, almost inconspicuously, within the shadows beneath the table, her face nearly hidden.
Poyer portrays St. Mary Magdalene in the Hours of Henry VIII.