Caravaggio introduced dramatic effects of light and shadow in his paintings and often used ordinary-looking people to illustrate religious stories. Artists from Italy, as well as from other European countries, adopted his style.
In the sixteenth century a new emphasis was placed on Mary Magdalen's role as a converted sinner. Caravaggio depicts Mary's sister Martha, dressed modestly, reproaching her sister for her wayward conduct and enumerating on her fingers the miracles of Christ. This exact moment of the conversion was obviously a tremendous challenge for the painter because the change is spiritual rather than physical. Caravaggio's solution was to manipulate the light that illuminates the Magdalen, giving her an unearthly glow. The mirror, a traditional Image of vanity, now reflects the light of divine revelation.