In Christian iconography the figure of Mary Magdalene has been depicted in many of the key scenes of Christ's Passion. However, she can also be depicted in one of two other key scenes; richly dressed and renouncing her vanity, or penitent - simply clothed or naked. In the present lot, she is depicted as the former, richly attired but tearfully looking up to heaven. This is her moment of conversion where she renounces her vanities and is transformed into the Christian symbol of the repentant sinner.
In this case, the richness of Mary Magdalene's costume is not only a sign of her own ostentatiousness but exemplary of the artistic production in Antwerp towards the end of the 15th century. She is depicted wearing necklaces, elaborate costume and extravagant head-dress, which can be seen in another polychromed wood version dating to circa 1520 (op. cit, no. 89). In both cases she wears the elaborate winged head-dress, which is, in fact, more Oriental in style than European, and possibly a reflection of Antwerp's extensive trading routes at the time. Similarly, this attention to costume can also be seen in another Antwerp group depicting three figures from the Crucifixion and dating to circa 1515 (op. cit, no. 99). Here the similarities do not only lie in the heaviness and decoration of the costumes, they are also apparent in the liveliness of the scene. In this group the three men are dynamic and expressive, just as the Magdalene, and in each instance the posture is full of energy and with a facial expression that is peaceful yet intense.