The Biblical figure Mary Magdalene was one of the followers of Jesus. Traditionally presented as a former prostitute, she is one of the principal archetypes for the representation of female sexuality in western art – a tradition that Dumas subtly undermines in this series of highly individual portraits. ‘I liked the fact that this woman wants this man and he says ‘no’. My men are often supposedly ‘feminine’ while my women are more ‘masculine’ (if you want to use these distinctions still)’, Dumas has said. ‘I use religious subjects as I use fairy-tale figures, in order to give my audience an easy starting point, a popular reference that relates to all times and that is familiar to most people’.