This small, but very emotionally intense painting, with the face of weeping Mary Magdalen, is the only surviving fragment of frescoed decoration painted by Ercole Roberti together with Francesco del Cossa, another authoritative representative the Ferrara school of painting, on the walls of the Garganelli Chapel of the Cathedral of San Pietro in Bologna.

The partial collapse of the church in 1599 resulted in the destruction of the frescoes, but historical sources and some copies make it possible to reconstruct all of the figurative work that was done in the chapel. It was so well-known and celebrated that Michelangelo defined it as “una mezza Roma di bontà – half of what is good about Rome”. And it is, in fact, from a copy of the Crucifixion, and we can detect the exact position of the fragment within the cycle.

The face of Mary Magdalen bears witness to the extraordinary quality of the lost paintings and an expressive power that recalls the dramatic faces of the Marys in the sculptural group with the Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Niccolò dell'Arca preserved in the Bolognese church of Santa Maria della Vita. The meticulous description of every tiny detail of Ercole Roberti’s calligraphic style shows his knowledge of contemporary Flemish painting, known directly through the Este collection in Ferrara.

Her skin reddened from weeping, her half-closed eyelids, the teeth visible in her mouth, her hair detailed strand by strand, and finally, the marvellously executed crystalline tears are truly amazing details, especially considering the rapid execution required by the fresco technique.