Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Miniature of the Penitent Magdalen, 1639-40 

Isaac and Peter Oliver (c.1565-1617) & (1589-1647) respectively

Miniature of the Penitent Magdalen, 1639-40, Isaac and Peter Oliver
Watercolour on vellum
17th Century
Oval, 70mm. (2¾ inches) high
Probably the same listed owned by King Charles II, unpublished inventory of circa 1666-67, in the king's closet: Fol.22, no.385, “Peter Oliver, Mary Madgalen in a blew garment” Probably the same listed as owned by King James II, inventory of His Majesty’s goods, 1688, pictures at Whitehall: “No. 594, by Peter Oliver, a limning of Mary Magdalen in a blue garment” James Sotheby, listed circa 1720 in James Sotheby’s notebooks of purchases: “Half length of Mary Magdalen in ye Wilderness by Peter Oliver” (probably bought from the Keeper of William III’s pictures) by descent to Major-General Frederick Edward Sotheby, of Ecton Hall, Northampton; ‘The Sotheby Heirlooms’, Part I, Sotheby’s, London, 11 October 1955, lot 47 (bt. Rockliffe, £68)
Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Portrait Miniatures, 1889, Case XXI, no. 13.
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This example is one of a rare group of smaller cabinet miniatures by Peter Oliver of oval shape also copied or derived from paintings in either Royal ownership or other English collections. These exquisite and even more intimate histories date from the late 1630s until the mid-1640s and are a continuation in theme but of much smaller size than those kept in the shutting cases. Oliver’s ‘The Penitent Magdalen’ is almost certainly derived although not directly copied from Titian’s picture of the same subject, at least two versions of which were in the collection of Charles I. An unusual feature in this particular depiction of ‘The Penitent Magdalen’ is that the book rests on a grassy bank instead of the more usual human skull shown in six of the seven known versions of this subject by Titian, only one of the surviving versions is without the skull and therefore this is perhaps one of the pictures that was once in the Royal Collection
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