Noli me tangere


Well-known member
After Flora I made another attempt at a male/female couple... and succeeded this time. I had in mind a Biblical theme from one of my long-time favorite paintings by Titian: Noli me tangere.


The Biblical narrative deals with Mary Magdalene coming upon Jesus after his crucifixion and burial. Overcome with emotion, she reaches to touch him to see if he is real and not just a figment of her imagination. Jesus pulls away and commands her, "Noli me tangere"... "Touch me not"... In asking Mary Magdalene not to touch him, Jesus indicates that once the resurrection is accomplished, the link between human beings and his person must no longer be physical.

My studio mates and I had been discussing the links between popular culture and Greco-Roman and Biblical narratives. Michelangelo and other Medieval and Renaissance artists drew links between Apollo and Jesus (shepherd, healer, god of light, etc...). Some time before, I had read the cultural and social critic Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. In this book, she argued that Elvis was a modern Apollonian figure. I was beginning to toy with the idea of employing characters drawn from popular culture from classic faerie tales, Disney, comic books, film, TV, and pop music as a means of updating classic narratives and making them more accessible. I decided upon employing Elvis and Apollo/Jesus in an updated Noli me tangere... or at least that narrative done my way.


As per my usual working methods, I completed a drawing of the figures that established the contours and pose... and then moved on to the surrounding space. I decided to employ the same more complex patterns that I used in the previous painting, albeit using a different color harmony. I was thinking of the classic primary triad: red, blue, yellow... with the gold leaf acting as the yellow and toning down the red to a rose similar to that employed in some favorite early Renaissance paintings. I did a lot of sanding on this painting in order to create a weathered surface that was aged in appearance. Rather than using the same pose as Titian or one similar to other paintings on the theme where Jesus faces Mary and pulls away, I thought I would have the male figure turn his back on the woman facing out of the painting. You can see a slew of photo references for Mary Magdalene tacked to the wall... and there were likely dozens more.


I tagged the photo reference for Elvis right to the painting next to the portrait at the angle that I was working.


Not only do I sand the acrylic paint, but I also sand the gold leaf to further the weathered look.


I can't believe at this time that I wasn't using a matte acrylic underpainting for the flesh. Too many mistakes and repeated erasures of the un-primed paper would damage the fibers of the paper and lead to patches that looked out of place. What was I thinking?!

Noli me tangere.jpg

This is one of my older paintings that I still quite like. Unfortunately, it's also the painting that resulted in one of the most perverted comments by a studio visitor. :mad: