This unusual composition showing Jesus’ compassion for his dear friend Mary is probably historically inaccurate, since Mary Magdalene was only decided to have been a harlot some three centuries after her death. Her naked shoulder, her youth, and her blond hair are clues to her erroneous bad reputation.
In 1969, the confusion of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany was clarified and the description “sinful woman” was removed from the General Roman Calendar. But the view of her as a former prostitute has persisted in popular culture. Mary Magdalene is considered to be a saint by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. Her feast day is July 22.
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