Did Perugino (1445-1523) leave us a clue about the identity of
Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple?
The Crucifixion with the Virgin, St. John, St. Jerome, and St. Mary Magdalene
-- by Perugino (c. 1485)
Pietro Perugino (Pietro Vannucci) (1445-1523), was an Italian painter. His nickname Perugino is derived from his hometown, Perugia.
In the above painting, we see St. Jerome on the far left. Mary, the mother of Jesus is standing under the Cross, second from the left.
St. John is standing under the Cross, second from the right. And Mary Magdalene is standing on the far right.
There is something very peculiar about St. John and Mary Magdalene in this painting. Notice that they seem to be standing in identical poses!
When viewed side by side, as we see here, one can see an obvious intentional effort by Perugino to inextricably link these two figures.
Was this Perugino's way of leaving a "Renaissance clue" about Mary Magdalene being the true Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel?
Did he have information to that effect in his day?
Leonardo daVinci may have left similar clues in his famous Last Supper mural.
Interestingly, Perugino studied with Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), and may have known him pretty well.
(See my discussion of the Beloved Disciple in da Vinci's Last Supper.)
Is it mere coincidence that both of these artists portrayed these figures in a way that seems to link
Mary Magdalene to St. John, the Beloved Disciple of tradition? Or, were both of these men secretly of the opinion
that Mary Magdalene was, indeed, the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel?
St. Jerome (c. 340-420) is on the far left in a separate panel. He was obviously not at the Crucifixion as he was born some 340 years later. His presence in this painting is
a reference to the Bible. Jerome is most noted for translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into the
official Latin Vulgate version of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also recognized as one of the earliest and most prominent scholars of the Bible in the Church.
Of great importance here is that the Fourth Gospel is the only one
of the New Testament Gospels that places either the mother of Jesus or the "Beloved Disciple" (traditionally believed to be St. John)
at the foot of the Cross. Therefore, this scene is a specific reference to the Crucifixion as described
in the Gospel of John (the Fourth Gospel).
Perugino then goes on to portray Mary Magdalene, off to the right in a separate panel,
as standing in a pose that is oddly identical to that of St. John. It is as if he is intentionally drawing
our attention to both of these figures as a clue to the identity of the Beloved Disciple.
Of course, 15th century Renaissance artwork does not directly prove anything about the events that transpired
during the days of the New Testament. However, this does show that Perugino, daVinci, and others
had reason to believe that Mary Magdalene was the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel. Did they
have access to copies of the gnostic documents of the Nag Hammadi Library? Were they relying on oral tradition
that had survived up to their day? Were they guardians of some kind of "secret knowledge"? Whatever the reason,
they obviously felt strong enough about this to encrypt it into their artwork.
This is one more piece of evidence from history that lends further credence to the thesis in my essay --
MARY MAGDALENE: AUTHOR OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL?
Posted on July 16, 2002
My e-mail address: RamonKJusino@hotmail.com
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