Recreating the Penitent Magdalene

In my Art History II class we were recently assigned to create a Tableaux Vivant. Tableaux Vivant is French for the phrase “living picture.” With this assignment each of us had to recreate a famous piece of artwork that we studied in class and take a picture of it. For this project we could also use our self, friends, family members, and whatever props we wanted.

For this project I chose to recreate the Penitent Magdalene, which is an oil painting by Georges de La Tour. After studying this painting in class, I ended up seeing it in person at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which made me want to do my project on it even more. Seeing the actual painting was so different than seeing it in class through the projector. Here is the original painting:

pentinent magdalene

To create the Tableaux I tried to recreate the setting from the painting inside my room. In the original painting the only light source is a candle that is on a desk and the background is fairly dark. I attempted to capture this by taking the picture with the lights off in my room during the daytime. That way the image would be dark enough but not too dark. For my props I used the standing mirror in my room to replicate the mirror from the painting. Then I set up a table and a chair in front of the mirror. I ended up posing myself as Mary Magdalene and had a friend take the picture for me with my iPhone. Getting into the right pose was a little harder than I thought it would be and my friend retook the picture quite a few times so we could get the pose so I was happy with it. I tried to be creative with this project by using emojis as some of my props. I did not have a candle or a skull on hand, so I figured using emojis in place of them would work just as well and make an interesting twist. Here’s what I came up with:


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