Noli Me Tangere—“Don’t Touch Me”—the title of this oil painting (c. 1550) by Titian, now in London’s National Gallery, is borrowed from the Gospel of John (20:17), where the resurrected Jesus warns Mary Magdalene to stay away because he has not yet ascended to his father. The longer ending of the Gospel of Mark also describes their encounter, Jesus’ first after the resurrection: “Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him” (Mark 16:9–10). In Titian’s painting, Mary grasps a jar of ointment in one hand. Jesus holds either a hoe—perhaps an attempt to explain why, in John’s gospel, Mary first mistakes Jesus for a gardener—or a shepherd’s staff. That Jesus has risen from the dead is apparent from the nail holes in his feet and the billowing white shroud that he has tied around his neck as a cloak.

Contemporary artist Wayne Forte based his painting on Titian’s earlier work. Featured on the cover of this issue (and below), Forte’s “Really Wanna Touch You” from 1989 is painted in acrylic on rag paper mounted on wood with bolts, a baseball (painted to represent a globe), a gardenia (intended to represent grace; lower left), and a ruler (the law; lower right). The words Noli me tangere are written in an arc above the Magdalene. The bloody handprints of the crucified Jesus appear in the top corners of the plywood frame. Measuring 53 by 50 inches, Forte’s painting is about a foot wider than Titian’s.

Forte borrowed his title from a Beatles song not only to make the scene more accessible to contemporary audiences but also to convey Mary’s very human desire to touch her Lord.

Titian’s work hangs in the National Gallery, in London; Forte’s is in a private collection.