Martha and Mary Magdalene

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Italian, 1571 - 1610

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About the Artwork

Caravaggio introduced dramatic effects of light and shadow in his paintings and often used ordinary-looking people to illustrate religious stories. Artists from Italy, as well as from other European countries, adopted his style. In the sixteenth century a new emphasis was placed on Mary Magdalen's role as a converted sinner. Caravaggio depicts Mary's sister Martha, dressed modestly, reproaching her sister for her wayward conduct and enumerating on her fingers the miracles of Christ. This exact moment of the conversion was obviously a tremendous challenge for the painter because the change is spiritual rather than physical. Caravaggio's solution was to manipulate the light that illuminates the Magdalen, giving her an unearthly glow. The mirror, a traditional Image of vanity, now reflects the light of divine revelation.

Martha and Mary Magdalene

ca. 1598

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

1571 - 1610



Oil and tempera on canvas

Unframed: 39 3/8 × 52 15/16 inches (100 × 134.5 cm) Framed: 51 × 64 3/4 × 3 3/4 inches, 111 pounds (129.5 × 164.5 × 9.5 cm, 50.3488 KG)


European Painting

Gift of the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford


This work is in the public domain.




Arezzo, Collection Panzani Family

1897, legally exported through the dogana in (Milan, Italy)

between 1904 and 1909, acquired by Indalecio Gómez, Argentine Ambassador to Berlin (Paris, France)

by descent, collection Carlos Gómez de Alzaga, grandson of Indalecio (Salta Province and subsequently Buenos Aires, Argentina)

1971, sold at auction (Christie's, 25 June 1971, lot 21, London, England)

purchased by Ambassador Carlos Gómez de Alzaga

1973-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

For more information on provenance and its important function in the museum, please visit:

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Exhibition History

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Published References

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Polivideo. Caravaggio: L'Eredità di un Rivoluzionario. Locarno, 2008, 15m16s; 16m58s. [DVD]

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Fried, Michael. After Caravaggio. New Haven, 2016, p. 14.

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Zuffi, Stefano. Caravaggio in Detail. Antwerp, 2016, pp. 19, no. 18 (ill.); 42–43 (ill.); 94–95 (ill.); 162–163 (ill.).

Cardinali, Marco, et al. “The Rediscovered Portrait of Prospero Farinacci by Caravaggio,” Artibus et Historiae 37, no. 73 (2016): pp. 249-283, pp. 253; 258 (fig. 12-13).

Haberman, Clyde. "He's a Creep, but Wow, What an Artist!" New York Times (November 15, 2017): p. A22. [See also, accessed November 16, 2017:]

Spear, Richard E. “An Invisible Web: Art Historians Behind the Collecting of Italian Baroque Art.” In Buying Baroque: Italian Seventeenth-Century Paintings Come to America, ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. University Park, 2017, p. 56.

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Setaioli, Aldo. "Quale Maria? Caravaggio e le due sorelle." Prometheus 44 (2018): 3–19, pp. 3–19 (ill.).

Brown, Mark. "'Lost Caravaggio' rejected by the Louvre may be worth £100m." The Guardian (February 28, 2019): (accessed February 28, 2019)

Mandel, Nathalie. “Pour ou Contre: Judith et Holopherne est-il de Caravage?” L’Object D’Art 53 (June 2019): 52–65, p. 64 (ill.). [detail of DIA painting used as comparative image]

Scott, Chadd. "Dallas Museum of Art Offers Rare Look At A Caravaggio Masterpiece." Forbes, August 8, 2019.

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Credit Line for Reproduction

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Martha and Mary Magdalene, ca. 1598, oil and tempera on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford, 73.268.

Martha and Mary Magdalene
Martha and Mary Magdalene