A Lady Reading as Mary Magdalene | 1520/40 | Master of the Female Half-Lengths
An artist known simply as "Master of the Female Half-Lengths"? Was this the precursor to the "Artist Formerly Known as Prince"? It seems very little is known about this artist, not even if the paintings attributed to this artist is just one person or a group of artists. The National Gallery has only this to say about the artist(s):
How more vague can you get? "So-called" ... "author or overseer" ... "perhaps" ... connections with one but more related to another ... not dated. Note that the date of this painting ranged from 1520-1540 because we can't be certain when exactly it was painted. He (she?!) is so mysterious!
So what might this "lady reading as Mary Magdalene" be reading? I chose the Book of Hours by Simon Bening. It was completed around the same time as the painting and is currently on view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 13. The pages in the book held by the lady are very ornate and beautifully detailed, so I knew a manuscript illumination was what I wanted to feature.
It wasn't until grad school (in a fashion history course...thanks Dr. Wilson!) that I was first introduced to a manuscript illumination and I was in awe of the artistry, the history, and the foreignness of it. It was really Dr. Wilson, who is now retired, who helped me recognize the strong connection between and appreciation for fashion, history, literature, and art.