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The Chapel of the Courtesan and the Quarrel of the Magdalens

Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe
The Art Bulletin
Vol. 84, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 273-292
Published by: College Art Association
DOI: 10.2307/3177269
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3177269
Page Count: 20
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The Chapel of the Courtesan and the Quarrel of the Magdalens
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Abstract

According to Vasari, a famous courtesan commissioned the decorations for a chapel in SS. Trinità dei Monti, Rome, consisting of an altarpiece and frescoes by Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni illustrating scenes from the life and legend of Mary Magdalen. This essay reconstructs the project, which was dismantled in the nineteenth century, and examines the status of courtesans in Rome at the time. Mary Magdalen's role as a penitent prostitute is also explored and the argument made that the chapel's decorations express the conservative position in the "Quarrel of the Magdalens," when the Magdalen's identification as a prostitute was challenged.

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