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.