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Magdalen's skull: allegory and iconography in 'Heptameron' 32.

FEW READERS of Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron will easily forget the sinister scene in novella 32, where a young, beautiful but unfaithful woman is forced by her vengeful husband to drink out of her dead lover's skull. Although equally cruel analogues could be found in Boccaccio's Decameron, Marguerite's strikingly macabre scene seems to be unique in Renaissance literature.(2) Representations of human skeletons are, of course, plentiful in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century iconography, a period often characterized by its obsession with death.(3) Certainly Marguerite may have been influenced by the pervading vanitas and memento mori motifs. At the same time, the whole scene could be viewed as a staged perversion of relic worship, a practice much frowned upon in evangelical circles favored by Marguerite.

A French gentleman named Bernage is sent on a diplomatic mission by King Charles VIII of France to Germany. One night, as he is enjoying the hospitality of a German lord, Bernage learns that his host has punished his wife for being unfaithful in the most dreadful manner. The vengeful husband explains to his guest:

And since my wife's crime seemed to me to be so heinous that a similar death would hardly suffice, I imposed a punishment which I think she finds more painful than death. I decided to lock her up in the very room where she used to go to wallow in her pleasures, and keep her there in the company of the man she loved more than she had ever loved me. In a cupboard in the room I hung her lover's skeleton like some precious object in a private gallery. And so that she would never forget him even when eating and drinking, I made her sit [in front of me] at table and had her served from the man's skull instead of a cup, so that she would have before her both the living and the dead.(4)

In this case, the veneration of the lover's "relics" (from the Latin reliquiae, what is left [of the saints' bodies]), becomes the worst possible punishment, even worse than death ("pire que la mort," 245) as it is pointed out several times within the narrative as well as in the summary provided by the 1559 edition.(5)

At the beginning of the novella Oisille, the old dowager who serves as narrator of the story, insists upon the extraordinary beauty of the German lady as she unexpectedly emerges at night, dressed in black and her head shaved, from behind a tapestry: "When the food was brought onto the table, he [Bernage] saw emerge from behind a tapestry the most beautiful woman it was possible ever to bhold, though her hair was cropped and the rest of her body clad in black in the German style" (331).(6) The description is repeated a few lines later when Bernage sits, spellbound, silently contemplating the most beautiful woman he has ever seen: "The Seigneur de Bernage looked at her closely. She seemed to him to be one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, except that her face was very pale and her expression very sad" (331).(7) After completing his mission in Germany, Bernage returns to the French court and recounts the whole story to the King. As he listens to his envoy's report, Charles VIII is so enthralled by the German lady's beauty that he decides to send his favorite painter, Jean Perreal alias Jean de Paris, to the gentleman's castle to make her portrait and recapture her "living likeness": "On his return to the court he [Bernage] recounted the whole story to his master the King, who found upon inquiry that it was even as it had been told him. And having heard [tell] also of the lady's great beauty, he [the King] sent his painter, Jean de Paris, to bring back her living likeness" (334).(8)

At various narrative levels of the novella, iconography thus plays an important role in presenting and preserving the image of the beautiful contrite adulteress and, as we shall see, accords with the topos of the model penitent sinner, the peccatrix poenitens. Both Bernage and the King are moved, not only by the lady's repentance but undoubtedly by her striking beauty, paradoxically enhanced by her shaven head and her lover's skull.(9) Traditionally, in art and literature the image of the penitent sinner was associated with the character of Mary Magdalen, one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.(10) With the beginning of the Reformation Mary Magdalen was still widely accepted as a saint by most Protestant denominations, even though debates raged among Christian humanists about her true identity.(11) Contrary to most other popular saints, she figured as a character in the gospels; she had known, loved, and followed Jesus up to his last walk to Calvary; she had come to be accepted as the great example of the penitent sinner, absolved from sin through faith in her Saviour.(12)

Mary Magdalen was also a favorite subject for painters who wanted to depict an exemplary figure of repentance.(13) As the prostitute converted by Christ's love in the gospels "Beata Dilectrix Christi," she was represented either as a beautiful woman holding a jar of ointment (the figure of the so-called "Myrophore": "Madalena con il vaso di unguenti," "Magdalena mit der Salbenbuchse") or, more frequently during the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation, as a repentant sinner holding a skull ("Maria Magdalena poenitens," "Magna Peccatrix," "Die Busserin, die bussende Magdalena, die reuige Sunderin").(14) In the second instance, as an attribute of the penitent saint, the skull was used as a "symbol of the transitory nature of life on earth" because it suggested "the useless vanity of earthly things."(15) More specifically, the Hebrew and Latin words for skull (Golgotha, calvarium) served as powerful reminders of the place where Christ had been crucified. At the foot of the Cross, which was also thought to mark the place of Adam's burial, the first sinner's skull had become the holy cup meant to gather the New Adam's precious blood. The striking image of the penitent woman drinking out of her lover's skull may have been suggested to Marguerite by the dramatic representation of Adam's skull turned into chalice on the Gologtha.(16)

The question of whether Jean Perreal ever painted a real picture of "la Magdelaine" remains unclear to this day although some art historians have conjectured that one of his best paintings was precisely a Saint Mary Magdalen wrongly attributed to Roger van der Weyden.(17) Since most of the works by Perreal are now unfortunately lost, it is virtually impossible to reconstruct the historical context which would prove that such a painting ever existed. However, Marguerite's claim to truthfulness in the Prologue to the Heptameron increases the likelihood that such a painting may have been executed by the king's official painter. Of course, Marguerite de Navarre makes no explicit link in novella 32 between Perreal's painting and Magdalen's iconography. Yet, as we shall see, the portrait commissioned by the king is definitely presented to the reader as a Magdalen-type of painting.

To be sure, the King's intervention is a clear signal that the penitent sinner should not be despised out of self-righteousness. On the contrary, the royal decision serves to highlight the importance of repentance as a model of exemplarity. Moral teaching is hypostatized in the form of an artistic work which will be preserved for future generations and offered to the people's admiring gaze, with the additional guarantee of the King's approval. At the end of Marguerite's story, Perreal's painting becomes the ultimate sign through which ethical, political, and aesthetic principles can finally converge.

Such a powerful representation may be read in different ways. For social historians it might be seen as another form of the royal response to traditional pardon requests. As Natalie Z. Davis has shown, other novellas in the Heptameron offer parallels with common types of pardon tales or "lettres de remission."(I8) Here in novella 32 we have a grandiosely transposed version of the King's compassionate gesture toward criminals as long as they repent and mend their ways. Indeed, the unfaithful wife's crime was deemed to be "worse than death" (334), as Parlamente did not hesitate to put it in her discussion following the tale.(I9) Yet the King has the ability to transcend earthly contingencies and use his political power to restore the moral order. Reversing Parlamente's metaphor, the King can bring back life and light where only death and darkness reigned. In novella 32 this restoration to a life-giving state of plenitude is symbolized by the couple's eventual return to a normal, productive marriage. Following up on the advice of the King's messenger and moved by the art of the King's painter, the husband will finally show compassion for his wife; and they will subsequently have many fine children (334; "beaucoup de beaulx enfans" 245). Forgiveness will ensure the existence of lineage, a crucial element by aristocratic standards.(20)

For historians of religion and biography-oriented critics, a case could be made for a reading of novella 32 in terms of the ideal converging of spiritual and political forces in early sixteenth-century France. Marguerite's evangelical leanings may have prompted her to publicize the King's image as the compassionate representative of a merciful God on earth. By coming to the contrite sinner's rescue, the King adopted a Christ-like role. He appeared to pattern his attitude after the Good Shepherd who, in the gospel narrative, goes after the lost sheep until he finds it: "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and, when he gets home, summons his friends and neighbours, to whom he says: Be glad with me, for I have found my lost sheep. I tell you that in such fashion there will be joy in heaven over one repentant sinner more than over ninety-nine righteous persons who stand in no need of repentance" (Luke, I5:5-7).(2I) The parable of the lost sheep was the subject of much attention among the humanists of the Meaux circle. In the correspondence between Guillaume Briconnet and Marguerite de Navarre one finds several allusions and paraphrases of the famous passage.(22) Interestingly enough, in one of his letters the bishop of Meaux explicitly refers to the adulterous wife as the stray sheep ("la brebis egaree") worthy of Christ's redemptive sacrifice: "The highly celestial Word [had to] find his way to earth (i.e. to human nature) through the most admirable saving grace of the Incarnation, in order to remove, cleanse and purge the lost sheep (that is the fornicating and adulterous spouse) by and through His most worthy, sacred and precious blood.(23) By turning away from his more immediate duties and dispatching his painter to a foreign land to retrieve the "living likeness" (334; "au vif" 245) of an "espouze fornicatrice et adulterante," the King emulates Christ leaving his flock of sheep in the wilderness to go after the "brebis egaree." And when the beautiful features of the contrite wife are brought back to France on canvas, there will be joy at court just as, in Luke 15 "there is joy in heaven for one repentant sinner." Repentance is thus an occasion for joy and celebration: Heaven and earth join again in harmonious unity.

One is not, therefore, surprised to find in the discussion following novella 32 a reference to "la Magdelaine" as the epitome of the "Pecheresse repentie" (246). Ennasuite, one of the most astute devisants, glosses the German lady's sinfulness in terms of the gospel story of Mary Magdalen:

"I find the punishment extremely reasonable," said Parlamente. "For just as the crime was worse than death, so the punishment was worse than death."

"I don't agree," said Ennasuite. "I would far rather be shut up in my room with the bones of all my lovers for the rest of my days than die for them, since there's no sin one can't make amends for while one is alive, but after death there is no making amends."

"How could you make up for loss of honour?" said Longarine. "Don't you know that nothing a woman can do after such a crime can ever restore her honour?"

To which Ennasuite replied: "Tell me, I beg you, whether the Magdalene does or does not have more honour amongst men than her sister, who was a virgin?"

"I admit," said Longarine, "that she is praised for her great love for Jesus Christ and for her great penitence, but even so she is still given the name of Sinner."

"I don't care," said Ennasuite, "what names men call me, only that God pardons me, and my husband. There is no reason why I should wish to die." (334-35)(24)

To Parlamente who finds the punishment reasonable and to Longarine who holds that nothing can ever make up for the loss of a woman's honor, Ennasuite is quick to respond by proposing the image of the greatest of penitent sinners, Mary Magdalen. What might be perceived by modern readers as a passing reference to a popular saint may, in fact, have had quite an important meaning in the context of the humanist debates and religious iconography of the time.(25) To be sure, the powerful presence of the skull in novella 32 may be partly explained by its metaphoric link with contemporary iconographic conventions. If the adulteress's repentance were to be given an exemplary status, it had somehow to be represented with an immediately recognizable attribute. The choice was rather simple: the jar of ointment would have connoted sensuality and worldly life, whereas the skull could convey the opposite idea of self-denial and penitence. Even without Ennasuite's explicit clue, the reader was expected to know the meaning of specific codes and read the sinister suppertime scene in a symbolic mode. The skull was to be interpreted as a Speculum Poenitentiae.

Several remarks should be made at this point about Marguerite's depiction of the adulterous woman in terms of sixteenth-century iconographic practice. In the novella the reason for the adulteress's cropped hair is clearly explained by the husband; according to him, his wife's head has been shaved to show that she has lost her modesty and the "honor of chastity": "She has her hair shorn, for the crowning glory of woman no more becomes an adulteress than the veil becomes the harlot. So her hair is shaved to show that she has lost her modesty and the honour of chastity" (333).(26) Although much late medieval and Renaissance iconography shows Mary Magdalen with a long, overflowing mass of beautifully sensual hair, more popular representations often present quite a different picture. In an illustration from a manuscript of Le Livre de la Passion, dating from the beginning of the fifteenth century, a vignette represents Mary Magdalen cutting off her hair with scissors (figs. I, 2).(27) The illustration is accompanied with the following title: "Marie Magdaleine coppe ses cheveux par grant contricion." By cutting her long, blond hair, the contrite sinner shows that she is ready to sacrifice her most cherished earthly possession. Sensuality is dramatically discarded by this self-inflicted deprivation as a sign of penitence.


Two different explanations for the lady's shaved head are thus offered simultaneously in the text to the reader. The same sign can be read as denoting either adultery (in the husband's version) or repentance (as acknowledged by the iconographic tradition). In the narrative itself the repentance motif is strongly suggested by Oisille, the narrator. When the unfaithful wife confesses to Bernage, tears come to her eyes ("la dame ayant la larme a l'oeil ... en disant cela se print fort a pleurer," 244); and her very confession is a powerfully moving act of contrition. In addition, within the iconographic staging of the story, the absence of hair implicitly suggests a strange analogy between the adulteress's head and her lover's skull. Therefore, one can safely conclude that regardless of the husband's own self-serving explanation the shaved head motif can be seen as an additional element in the author's construction of the Magdalen allegorizing process.

Religion historians tell us that in the first decades of the sixteenth century the religious devotion to Saint Mary Magdalen was at its highest. World leaders would congregate at her holy places in Burgundy and Provence. According to legend, after Christ's Resurrection, Mary Magdalen had left the Holy Land with her sister Martha, her brother Lazarus, and a friend named Maximin. After a heavy storm their open boat miraculously landed in Marseilles where they converted many people. Mary Magdalen retired on a deserted mountain, La Sainte-Baume near the city, and spent the rest of her life praying in solitude as a penitent hermit. In Marguerite's time, pilgrimages to La Sainte-Baume and nearby Saint-Maximin were often led by kings and queens. The emperor Charles V himself made the trip to the shrines and even, to the French king's wrath, voiced his claims over the saint's relics.(28) Louise de Savoie, Marguerite's mother, had a particular devotion to Mary Magdalen. She had commissioned a biography of the saint by Francois du Moulin de Rochefort, a close friend of the royal family.(29) It is not, therefore, surprising that novella 32 should be told by Oisille, the old devout widow who is commonly identified by scholars with the Queen Mother.

Yet, the image of the skull was even more tightly connected with Saint Mary Magdalen in Marguerite's own personal experience. In January 1516, as an act of thanksgiving after her son's victory at Marignano, Louise de Savoie went herself on a pilgrimage to La Saint-Baume in Provence. She was joined there by her son Francois Ier, his wife Claude de France, and last but not least, his sister, Marguerite herself. At nearby Saint-Maximin the royal family prayed in front of the famous reliquary where Saint Mary Magdalen's holy head was dramatically displayed (fig. 3).(30) At the climax of their worship the three ladies were shown Mary Magdalen's own skull, richly adorned with a golden crown and supported by four kneeling angels.(31) An inscription commemorating the royal visit was placed near the reliquary in the crypt of Saint-Maximin. It read: "The Most Illustrious King Francis of France Came to this Holy Temple, with His Mother and His Sister."(32)


Marguerite had been brought up by her mother in a spirit of veneration for the patron-saint of penitent sinners. Magdalen's encouraging words, as reported in the Speculum Poenitentiae and Rochefort's Vie de sainte Magdelaine, must have been of much comfort to her: "Do not despair, you who are wont to sin; through my example you will find your way back to God."(33) Yet the strange encounter with the saint's skull in the holy shrine of Saint-Maximin must have left a lasting impression on young Marguerite's memory. As a weird sign of penitence it may have inspired a profound sense of awe which, in turn, may have eventually found its way, although under a transposed form, into her literary work.

In the Heptameron story, however, the physical reality of Mary Magdalen's skull remains absent. It has been displaced both literally and figuratively. At the most immediate plot level, the lover's head has replaced the saint's relic to become an involuntary object of perverted worship. Yet, although the adulteress is being forced by her husband to use the skull as a "most remarkable drinking-cup" (331; "un esmerveillable vaisseau," 242), the basic topical figure survives.

The shift of attribution from saint to lover remains a superficial one as the traditional portrait of "a penitent sinner with a skull" is preserved. In addition, as we have already noted, the suggestive analogy between the German lady's bald head and her dead lover's skull further enhances the powerful memory traces of the famous scene. In novella 32 the reliquary at Saint-Maximin still looms in the background, but I would like to suggest that the "precious relic" has changed meaning: by shifting from divine to human love, it has lost most of its claim to exemplarity.(34)

The story takes place, we recall, when Bernage is off to his royal mission in Germany. Beyond the theoretical exigencies of truthful reference, as clearly expressed through Parlamente's words in Marguerite's Prologue, one may wonder whether there may have been other compelling reasons for the specific geographical setting of the tale. By transposing the action from a Provencal church to a German castle, Marguerite may have tried to achieve a kind of aesthetic verisimilitude. The German context may have been suggested by several fifteenth-century altarpieces representing Mary Magdalen in the penitent phase of her life at Mariastern, Riemensschneider, or in the Tiefenbronn cycle decorated by Luca Moser at Baden. (35)

In all these symbolic representations the skull has not lost its special status as a precious relic, but it no longer belongs to the saint herself; it has become a detachable attribute of the penitent sinner. Through a metonymic shift "Magdalen's skull" has taken on quite a different meaning. Grammatically the move could be described as one from a "subjective" to an "objective" genitive. In other words, the original identity of the possessor and the thing possessed has been broken. "Magdalen's skull" no longer refers to the Saint's own bony head, the one Marguerite had contemplated in the Saint-Maximin reliquary; it now designates a neutral object, reduced to its pure symbolic function. At the same time, the allegorical potentiality of the representation has been problematized. The same holds true for Marguerite's novella. One no longer knows if the Heptameron story should be read solely on the literal level as a realistic tale, removed from any brand of apologetic intentionality, or if it should retain some higher figurative meaning, some altior sensus. Ennasuite's remark alone seems to invite the reader to the possibility of an interpretive gesture. Her intervention, however, remains problematic since it is never given a privileged status over the other devisants' by an authorial voice.

In Saint Augustine's De Trinitate allegory is defined in the following rhetorical fashion: "What is allegory? simply a trope through which one understands one thing for another?"(36) It is an event (factum) which stands for another one through some symbolic representation. If, for instance, Issac's sacrifice is an allegory of Christ's Passion, can we say that Marguerite's novella 32 is an allegory of Saint Mary Magdalen's life story? Under such a straight interpretation all the novella characters would become "other" than themselves ("ex alio aliud"). Before giving an answer to this crucial question let us consider the gospel narrative of the penitent sinner (Luke 7:36-50):

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him [Jesus] to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat.

And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil.

And she stood at His feet behind Him, weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying: "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner."

And Jesus answered and said to him: "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said: "Teacher, say it."

[After telling the parable of the creditor and his two debtors Jesus says to Simon, the Pharisee:]

"Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is given, the same loves little." Then He said to her: "Your sins are forgiven."

Obviously a rough parallel could be drawn between the plots of the two stories. As the royal messenger, Bernage is a Christ-like figure sent by the Father-King to redeem a sinner. The German gentleman opens his castle to Bernage just as Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to his house. Both scenes take place at suppertime. Both men despise the sinful woman who shows signs of contrition (she weeps profusely). Like Jesus, Bernage turns away from his host to address the peccatrix, takes pity on her, and argues for forgiveness.

Yet the parallel between the two narratives stops at this point. In novella 32 there are no further comparative elements which, according to the Church Fathers, might serve to justify an allegorical reading. First, contrary to the gospel story there is no offering of perfume to symbolize the lady's sincere faith, as Saint Jerome would have it.(37) Second, there is no kissing of Jesus's feet to show evidence of the lady's love for her Savior; therefore, Saint Gregory's criterium is lacking.(38) Third, there is no fragrant oil to fill the house with a pleasant smell and signify, according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the acknowledgement of the Word of God throughout the world.(39)

Any attempt at forcing an allegorical reading onto novella 32 is powerfully resisted within the text by a triple set of structures. First, in Oisille's primary narrative the plot line does not allow for a figurative interpretation of the facts. It is a straight realistic rendition of the French envoy's mission to Germany and the strange encounter he had there. Second, in the dialogue following the story, Ennasuite's position in favor of allegory is offset by the other devisants' conflicting statements. Third, at the metanarrative level the absence of Marguerite's authorial voice reinforces the thrust of the Prologue's allowance for dissenting voices. As Hircan puts it: "Where games are concerned everybody is equal" (70); "Au jeu nous sommes tous esgaulx" (10). Thus, the question of allegory remains an open one. The forceful image of the German lady drinking out of her lover's skull stays in the readers' minds just as her "living likeness" (334) adhered to the painter's canvas for the king's pleasure, or just as Magdalen's holy relics haunted Marguerite's memory. Although it is tempting to follow Ennasuite's reading and embrace the royal compassion for the repentant sinner, the powerful thrust of iconography is never used to force an allegorical interpretation and justify the exemplary status of the story. Contrary to Counter-Reformation ideology, in Marguerite de Navarre's hermeneutics Magdalen's skull is never a finality. It is always meant to emerge toward new beginnings ...



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(1)Tomlinson, 191.

(2)This is especially true in Day IV of the Decameron, devoted to lovers whose passion leads to tragic adventures. For instance, eating one's lover's heart becomes an extreme form of punishment for infidelity. In IV, 9 William of Roussillon kills Guardastagno, his wife's lover, and has her unknowingly eat the victim's heart. After she learns the truth, she throws herself out of a window and dies. Another analogue can be found in IV, 1 in which Tancredo kills his daughter's lover and sends her the victim's heart in a golden goblet.

(3)Numerous studies have been devoted to the theme of death in the Renaissance. See especially Aries 1975, 1978, 1983. For an updated bibliography on the subject, see Blum, 2:814 ff.

(4)Marguerite de Navarre, 1984, 332-33. This translation will be used, sometimes with a fair degree of modification, throughout this paper. Italics are mine. "Pour ce que le crime de ma femme me semble si grand [...] je luy ordonnay une peyne que je pense qu'elle a plus desagreable que la mort: c'est l'enfermer en la dicte chambre ou elle se retiroit pour prandre ses plus grandes delices et en la compaignye de celluy qu'elle aymoit mieulx que moy; auquel lieu je lui ay mis dans une armoyre tous les os de son amy, tenduz comme chose pretieuse en ung cabinet. Et, affin qu'elle n'en oblye la memoire, en beuvant et mangeant, luy faictz servir a table, au lieu de couppe, la teste de ce meschant." Marguerite de Navarre, 1967, 243-44. The page reference to either French and English texts will be given between round brackets throughout this paper.

(5)First, in the story itself the husband confides to Bernage: "I think that she [my wife] has [a punishment] more painful than death" (332); "Je pense qu'elle [ma femme] a [une peine] plus desagreable que la mort" (243). Second, after the story has been told, the devisants discuss whether "the punishment [was] worse than death" (334); "la punition [etait] pire que la mort" (245). Third, in his summary of the plot Claude Gruget, the editor of the 1559 text, writes: "A punishment more rigorous than death, [imposed] by a husband on his adulterous wife" ("punition, plus rigoureuse que la mort, d'un mary envers sa femme adultere" 476, n. 538).

(6)"Et ainsy que la viande fut apportee sur la table, [Bernage] veid sortir de derriere la tapisserye une femme, la plus belle qu'il estoit possible de regarder, mais elle avoit la teste tondue, le demeurant du corps habille de noir a l'alemande" (242).

(7)"Le seigneur de Bernaige la regarda bien fort, et luy sembla une des plus belles dames qu'il avoit jamais veues, sinon qu'elle avoit le visaige bien pasle et la contenance bien triste" (242).

(8)"Quant il [Bernage] fut retourne devant le Roi son maistre, luy feit tout au long le compte que le prince trouva tel comme il disoit; et, en autres choses, ayant parle de la beaulte de la dame, envoya son painctre, nomme Jehan de Paris, pour luy rapporter ceste dame au vif" (245).

(9)What is important here is that repentance does not have to alter beauty any more. This move may remind one, mutatis mutandis, of the shift from Donatello's Magdalen to Titian's. I wish to thank Rona Goffen for communicating this parallel to me. On Donatello's and Titian's Magdalens, see Ingenhoff-Danhauser, 8, 44-51.

(10)There is a large bibliography on the worship of Saint Mary Magdalen in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. See Faillon, "Mary Magdalen" in the Index to Young, and Saxer.

(11)On the "Magdalen Controversy" in early 1500s, see Marie Hoban and Anselm Hufstader. Jean-Pierre Massaut looks at the attitude of Lefevre and Clichtove to several theological issues, including the Magdalen controversy, and concludes that they adopt a middle position between the Sorbonne and the Reform, scholarship and piety, chap. 5,67-70 and apps. 1 and 2, 115-19. I wish to thank Gary Ferguson for this reference.

(12)Ferguson, 241.

(13)There is an abundant literature on the iconography of Saint Mary Magdalen in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. See Delpierre and Ingenhoff-Danhauser.

(14)Reau, 3,2:846ff. Representations of Mary Magdalen with a skull are almost unheard of in the Middle Ages (Cahier, 2:769).

(15)Ferguson, 69.

(16)On the triple symbolism of Adam's skull at the foot of the Cross, see Seringe, 197.

(17)Bancel, 28-29.

(18)Davis, 104-10.

(19)"L'offense est pire que la mort" (245). See also supra, n. 5.

(20)The painter, it is true, has to obtain the lord's "consentement" in order to proceed, and that "consentement" is linked to the husband's change of mind, which is itself produced by Bernage's words about the woman's repentance and the issue of lineage.

(21)See also Matthew 18:12-14.

(22)Letter 9 about the four kinds of lost sheep ("brebis errantes"). "There are several sorts of lost sheep. The retrieval of the first one was God's one and only work, when sweet Jesus was pleased to search for it and bring it back on his holy shoulders." ("Il y a plusieurs sortes de brebis errantes. La reduction de la premiere a este la singuliere et seulle euvre de Dieu, quand il a pleu au doulx Jesus la sercher et ramener sur ses sacrees espaulles," 1:41). "Leaving his 99 healthy sheep, the Good Sheperd ran after the stray one" ("Laissant le bon pasteur les 99 brebis saines, [il] court apres l'esgaree," 2:61). "[God], however, does not move away from us; but, out of His infinite goodness, He searches after us like stray sheep." ("[Dieu] pourtant ne s'eslongne de nous, par bonte infinie nous sercheans comme brebis errantes," 2:96). "[God] would go to the end of the world to bring back the stray sheep." ("[Dieu] en la fin du monde rapporteroit sur ses sacrees espaulles la brebis en son esgarement," 2:97).

(23)"Le Verbe superceleste [devoit] cheminer en terre (en nature humaine), par suradmirable et salvifique incarnation, pour la brebis erratique (qui est l'espouze fornicatrice et adulterante) retirer, laver et purger en et par son tres-digne, sacre et precieux sang." Letter 116 (31 August 1524), 2:239.

(24)"Je trouve, dist Parlamente, ceste punition autant raisonnable qu'il est possible; car, tout ainsy que l'offense est pire que la mort, aussy est la pugnition pire que la mort." Dist Ennasuitte: "Je ne suis pas de vostre opinion, car j'aymerois mieulx toute ma vie veoir les oz de tous mes serviteurs en mon cabinet, que de mourir pour eulx, veu qu'il n'y a mesfaict qui ne se puisse amender; mais apres la mort, n'y a poinct d'amendement."--"Comment scauriez-vous amender la honte?" dist Longarine, "car vous scavez que, quelque chose que puisse faire une femme apres ung tel mesfaict, ne scauroit reparer son honneur?"--"Je vous prye, dist Ennasuitte, dictes-moy si la Magdelaine n'a pas plus d'honneur entre les hommes maintenant, que sa soeur qui estoit vierge?"--"Je vous confesse, dist Longarine, qu'elle est louee entre nous de la grande amour qu'elle a portee a Jesus Christ, et de sa grande penitence; mais si luy demeure le nom de Pecheresse."--"Je ne me soulcie, dist Ennasuitte, quel nom les hommes me donnent, mais que Dieu me pardonne et mon mary aussy. Il n'y a rien pourquoy je voulsisse morir" (245-6).

(25)On the relationship between novella 32 and the humanist debates of the early 1500s, especially the so-called "Magdalen Controversy," see Rigolot, 218-31.

(26)"Elle va tondue, car l'arraiement [arrangement] des cheveulx n'apartient a l'adultaire, ny le voyle a l'impudicque. Par quoy s'en va rasee, monstrant qu'elle a perdu i'honneur de la virginite et pudicite" (244).

(27)The manuscript of Le Livre de la Passion has been studied by Frank. Her main point is that "the vignettes represent a popular rather than a learned or ecclesiastical conception of the scenes they illustrate" (Frank, 335).

(28)Faillon, 1033 ff.

(29)Holban, 26-43, 147-71.

(30)Interestingly enough, Francois du Moulin de Rochefort, the author of the Vie de sainte Madeleine, was made abbot of St. Maximin by the Queen Mother as a recompense for his hagiographic work, Holban, 155.

(31)The four angels had been commissioned in 1503 by Anne of Brittany when she visited Saint-Maximin. She had herself also represented in the form of a kneeling statuette in front of the Saint. In the years following their visits to the sanctuaries, Francois Ier and his mother were to contribute considerable sums of money toward the completion of the churches of Saint-Maximin and La Sainte Baume.


(33)"Ne desperetis vos, qui peccare soletis: exemploque meo vos reparate Deo"; Reau, 3, 2:849.

(34)On the problematic status of exemplarity in the Renaissance, see Stierle, 176-98; and more specifically on Marguerite de Navarre, see Lyons, chap. 2.

(35)Reau, 855.

(36)"Quid est allegoria, nisi tropus ubi ex alio aliud intellegitur"; 15,15 (42:819).

(37)"Ut fidem Ecclesiae et gentium demonstreret"; Faillon, 303.

(38)"Vocata autem gentilitas Redemptoris sui vestigia osculari non cessat: quia in ejus amore continuo suspirat"; Fallion, 303.

(39)"Domus impleta est ex odore unguenti: loco fragrantiae et odoris Christi cognitio impletura erat orbem terrarum"; Faillon, 306.
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Title Annotation:novella by Marguerite de Navarre
Author:Rigolot, Francois
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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