URBINO, attributed to the “Conversion of Saul Painter”
D. 42, 5 cm
Otto Beit, London
The property of the Trustees of Mrs. A.A. Bull’s children’s Settlement, Christie’s London, 2 July 1990, lot n° 238
Daniel Katz, London
RACKHAM, 1916, p. 115, no. 806
The scene depicted on this dish illustrates the episode in the Gospel according to John (chapter 20, verses 15-18) describing the encounter of the Risen Christ with Mary Magdalene outside his tomb. Dressed as a gardener, wearing a hat and holding a spade or hoe, Christ raises his hand when Magdalene recognizes him, saying, "Noli Me Tangere, nondum enim ad Ascendi Patrem meum" ("Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to the Father"). The attitude of Mary Magdalene, kneeling hands folded in prayer before Christ, shows her in the act of recognition. In the background unfold two scenes relevant to the main one: on the left, three characters converse at the entrance of the tomb of Christ; on the right, shepherds and their flocks.
The subject of the Noli me Tangere was a common one in the sixteenth century, but the painter of our dish seems to be following an as yet unidentified source for his iconography.
The broken column which dominates the central scene is traditionally know as the Colonna Spezzata and has traditionally represented death or disaster ever since Roman times. It can have the meaning of a life cut short and is thought to have originated with depictions of the ruined temple of Solomon.