The religious painting developed during the 17th century served as a vehicle for promoting piety and repentance among the faithful. The naturalistic tone and models taken from reality sought to make holy figures more closely resemble those with whom the faithful could identify.
One of the subjects most often depicted is that of the penitent Mary Magdalene, because she embodies the possibility of redemption through repentance. This image of the saint as a repentant sinner is a development which emerged from the combination of different figures. It served as a model for those mortals who, even if they sinned repeatedly, could harbour the hope of salvation through repentance.