Christ Appears to Mary Magdalene (Noli me tangere), by Bronzino

July 6, 2018
image of art
Photo © Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

In John’s Gospel (20:11–18), after Mary Magdalene discovers the stone has been removed from Jesus’ tomb, she lingers in the garden. She sees Jesus but mistakes him for a gardener. Jesus then calls her by name, and she recognizes him. Bronzino (1503–1572) has captured the moment when Mary Magdalene recognizes the resurrected Christ and receives his instruction, “Do not touch me.” The painting’s title Noli me tangere is the Latin for this directive. In the painting, Jesus looks like a gardener with a shovel in his right hand and freshly planted flowers and upturned soil at his feet. An angel stands beside the empty tomb in the right background; other women (mentioned in the synoptic Gospels) are nearby. Mary’s vibrantly colored attire—ultramarine gown, deep-red cloak, and lush green undergown—elegantly coiffed hairstyle, and ornamented clasp at her neck are characteristic of mannerism, an affected style of painting between the High Renaissance and Baroque periods in Italian art.