Ambrosius Benson, The Magdalen Reading, c.1525, oil on oak, 41 x 36.2 cm, The National Gallery, London. Source

Italian artist Ambrosius Benson painted several versions of this popular composition. In this particular interpretation, Mary Magdalene’s signature ointment jar is a highly ornate and unusual lidded vessel.

Botticelli’s Mystical Nativity was hidden for many centuries. Once found, it earned its name from both the unusual Nativity symbolism and Greek inscription at the top.

Boticelli believed he was living through the Tribulation, which is clear in the mysterious inscription:

This picture, at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, I Alessandro, in the half-time after the time, painted, according to the eleventh chapter of Saint John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, during the release of the devil for three-and-a-half years; then he shall be bound in the twelfth chapter and we shall see [him buried] as in this picture.

It is the only surviving work with his signature.

Sandro Botticelli [Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi] (c. 1445-1510) and Workshop: Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist, c. 1490, (detail), tempera and oil on wood, 115.00 x 68.00 cm, Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), Ohio, United States of America, source: flickr.com/photos/sphericalbull [Glenn Marsch, Slippery Rock, PA, USA], commons.wikimedia.org and clevelandart.org/art/1970.160. Please visit Glenn Marsch’s own website: flickr.com/photos/sphericalbull for more beautiful works of art.