This rediscovered work by Alessandro Rosi depicts St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi, a Carmelite nun of Florence who lived from 1566 to 1607. Baptised Caterina, she was the daughter of a union between two great noble families--her father being Camillo Geri de' Pazzi and her mother a member of the Buondelmonti house. Caterina received her first ecstatic vision at the age of 12. From the age of 14 she studied at the Calaresse, where the sisters observed her remarkable piety and prophesied that she would become a great saint. At the age of 16, having convinced her parents of her decision to dedicate herself to God, Caterina entered the Carmelite convent of Santa Maria degl' Angeli, well-known for its strict observance; she was clothed in 1583--taking the name Maria Maddalena--and professed in 1584.
St. Mary held a number of offices in the convent before rising to that of Superior in 1604. Throughout her life, she continued to experience divine raptures, which often led her to utter maxims of Divine Love and spiritual counsel that were later collected as her Works. Beatified by Urban VII on 8 May 1626, she was canonised by Clement IX on 28 April 1669; her feast is kept on 27 May.
Alessandro Rosi is an important and fascinating artist of the Florentine Seicento whose oeuvre has received a recent reevaluation through the work of Elisa Acanfora. The present picture, a moving depiction of the saint in ecstasy while meditating upon the Crucifixion, is related to a smaller work in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambéry (inv. no. 182). The Chambéry version, while close, lacks the angel tending to St. Mary; Acanfora suggests that the Chambéry version dates no earlier than 1669, the date of the canonisation (op. cit., p. 77). The present picture may be the work Mina Gregori notes as having been in a Berlin sale in 1913 (loc. cit.).
We are grateful to Professor Riccardo Lattuada for first proposing the attribution to Alessandro Rosi, on the basis of photographs, and to Dr. Francesca Baldassari for confirming the attribution on inspection of the original.