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MARY MAGDALEN, by van Scorel
| This painting is on a panel,
as most paintings were in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the late 16th
century artists began increasingly to work on canvas. A panel is made
using wooden planks cut from the best timber, the central part of the
tree trunk. The planks were fixed together and carefully sanded. A thick
layer of ground, usually white, would then be applied. Over the years,
changes in temperature and humidity have led many panels to warp; the
planks bend separately and become loose and slightly shorter.
In the painting, as it is seen today (See the modified painting, 67x76cm; 1396x1600pix, 442kb), there is a top plank, just above Mary Magdalene's head, which was added after Van Scorel's time. The owner probably thought that a little extra sky and space would improve the painting. In fact the addition reduced the power and tension of the composition. The painting without the additional plank is a far more compact work. Mary Magdalene is a far stronger figure. Moreover, the balance between the tree on the right and the crag on the left is more obvious. Without the top plank, the painting is relatively broader, more in line with Van Scorel's other works of the period.