Efea Rutlin: The Uncertain Attribution
Efea Rutlin, University of Manchester MA student, Art Gallery and Museum Studies, shares her research about The maker of The Penitent Magdalen.
I am currently doing a placement as part of my MA, working with the Out of the Crate exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. I chose to work on the sculpture The Penitent Magdalen. This is a ‘Cold Case’ which means that there is a lack of information about it in the gallery’s archive – no Artist’s file or record of curatorial research. However there were leads to investigate! A record of where the sculpture came from, a gift from Mrs Theodora Winter, and an attribution to the Italian sculptor, Giuseppe Mazzuoli.
Research: Who was the artist?
In trying to find why this piece was attributed to Mazzuoli, I looked at the style of his other pieces to compare. Mazzuoli was part of the school of Bernini, so there was information on both of them and how their style differed. To help, I posted on Art Detective to see if there was anyone who knew more than me. I got more comments than I expected, which you can see here.
Using this feedback I looked more closely at other images of pentitent magdalens, most have a theme of her looking upward, flowing clothes, and details like a book and skull but not many had a skull underneath a book and her looking into the upper left corner. I wonder if Mazzuoli was inspired by a painting by 17th century Spanish artist Murillo like Raphael Morghen was in this print?
I also went into the archives of Manchester Art Gallery to see if there was a record that had the rationale behind assigning Mazzuoli to the relief. While there was no explanation, I found a document filled in by the then-curator, so it seems it was their decision.
Was it really a gift?
First I began with Mrs Theodora Winter, who was she? How would she have got the sculpture? With the date that the sculpture was given to the gallery, I looked at Census Data for Lancashire around that period. Aha! A Theodora Winter appeared. She had lots of connections in the art world. Before she was a Winter she was a Barlow, her father Thomas Barlow (1883-1964) was an industrialist and banker with an interest in the arts, becoming a member of the council of the Royal College of Art and was the Chairman for the Manchester City Art Gallery for some time. She married Carl Winter in 1953, who worked as an art historian and musuem curator at the Victoria and Albert Musuem, and then the Fitzwilliam Museum. They divorced in 1953. He is a key figure in history, through giving testimony to the Wolfenden Committee, whose report in 1967 led to the decrimilisation of sex between two consenting men. He asserted that sexuality was innate, not the result of “seduction” or “recruitment”. Does this make the relief significant? The way in which it was connected to a particular figure, and was it part of the story of LGBT+ rights in Britain?
But back to Theodora, it sounds like she would have been surrounded by art for much of her life, and it is disappointing that more information on her personal life has not been recorded. After posting on Art Detective we realised that some of the information recorded online was wrong. Art UK had the piece as ‘accepted in lieu of tax by HM government and allocated to Manchester Art Gallery, 1974’, which did not match the Art Gallery’s records, and so this has now been changed.
Conclusion so far
We can now be more confident about the attribution to Mazzuoli, backed up by a few different sources. We now know a little more about the donor, Theodora Winter, and interesting members of her family.
If you are reading this, and have any more information please let us know.
We are now reviewing the information and advice that has come through to us on Art Detective and we will be setting up an Artists File for the Mazzuoli sculpture to capture all the latest research.
Hawley, H. (1973). Giuseppe Mazzuoli: Education of the Virgin. The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 60(10), 292-299. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/25152503
Russel, Gordon (2004) Barlow, Sir Thomas (Tommy) Dalmahoy. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Published online 23rd September 2004. Available at: https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-30596
Schlegel, U. (1967). Some Statuettes of Giuseppe Mazzuoli. The Burlington Magazine, 109(772), 388-386. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/875352
Trinity College Chapel, (2019) Carl Winter. Available at: http://trinitycollegechapel.com/about/memorials/brasses/winter/
Victoria and Albert Museum, citing an obituary in the Times (1966) Obituary of Carl Winter. Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120203131515/http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/people-pages/obituary-carl-winter/
Raphael Morghen, Mary Magdalene, penitent in the desert, 1801 (detail)
Courtesy The Met.