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La Pia Contrita or Maddalena: M.7-1974

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Object information

Current Location: Founder's Entrance Hall Upper Landing


La Pia Contrita or Maddalena
Translated as: The Penitent Magdalene


Sculptor: Marchesi, Pompeo




Figure of a partly draped nude woman with long hair dressed in Grecian style, seated on two rounded rectangular cushions, with her left leg extended behind her and her right bent up underneath her, She leans forward and rests her right elbow on a cushion in front of her, holding her right hand up to the right side of her jaw and neck. Her left arm, partly covered by her drapery, is extended in front of the cushion, and she gazes upwards.


History note: Made for Duca Pompeo Litta Visconti Arese and by 1840 situated in a grotto in the Nymphaeum of the Villa Lainate, near Milan; reputedly from a palazzo in Rome; purchased in England by Gallery Heim, London, and exhibited in their Autumn Exhibition, 1972, Paintings and Sculpture 1770-1830

Legal notes

Purchased with the Cunliffe, Perceval and Webb Funds, aided by the Friends of the Fitzwilliam, the Pilgrim Trust and Grant-in-aid from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Measurements and weight

Height: 106.5 cm
Width: 160 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Milan ⪼ Italy

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1974-07-25) by Gallery Heim


19th Century
Production date: AD 1832


Like 'Venus Pudica' (M.6-1974), this sculpture of ‘The Pious Penitent’ or ‘Magdalene’ was commissioned by Duke Pompeo Litta Visconti Arese for his residence in Lainate (Milan). A finished model was shown in the Brera, Milan, in 1831, described as ‘la bella convertita’ (‘the beautiful convert’) with the explanation that Marchesi was attempting to portray the moment of conversion. In 1831, the Genoese poet Felice Romani composed a grandiose poem featuring Marchesi’s statues of Venus and Magdalene as two contrasting muses, one joyful (love), the other serious (religion), in conversation.

Marchesi was the leading Neoclassical sculptor in Milan during the first half of the nineteenth century, whose output was influenced by the work of Canova, under whom he had studied between 1804 and 1809. He established a large and prolific studio, and was Professor of Sculpture at Milan’s fine art academy between 1838 and 1852. Many of his models, including the full-scale plaster model for this work, are preserved in the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Milan.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted


  • Sculpture UK

Materials used in production

White marble

Techniques used in production

Carving : Marble

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: P. MARCHESI, F/MILANO 1832
  • Method of creation: Inscribed
  • Type: Signature

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.7-1974
Primary reference Number: 31227
External ID: CAM_CCF_M_7_1974
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "La Pia Contrita or Maddalena" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-18 20:45:42

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