Collecting Masterpieces
Photo of altarpiece-of-the-presentation-to-the-temple

 

European Masterpieces
ALTARPIECE OF THE PRESENTATION TO THE TEMPLE
Renaissance (AD 14 Th - 17 Th cent.

 

Object :
Nº 1778
Medium :
Wood Ivory, Bone, Coral, Fabric
Dimensions :
Height: 73 cm (28.7") – Width : 37 cm (14.5")

Excellent altarpiece in ancient oak, oil painting common amongst the aesthetic canons at the end of the 16th century. It shows the Virgin Mary kneeling as she is presented her son who is naked and crowned with lilies. Symeon is represented as an old man, wearing the miter of bishops and prelates. Curiously, he wears it slightly off angle compared to how it is normally used. Several characters are depicted along with two bird cages. Very good expressiveness of the faces, lovely flat red color. The Roman architecture of the temple is that of the end of the 16th century, with columns and arches visible behind a richly embroidered canopy hanging over the golden son. The stamp of the donor is visible on the back. Light cleaning and restorations were done by Mr. Estienne Lebrun, a restorator acredited by the Musées de France.

This painting comes from an altarpiece belonging to a private chapel. The scene of the presentation to the temple refers to an episode in the Gospel according to Luke (22-39) which describes a requirement of Jewish law that « every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord. » This ceremony follows circumcision whereby the child receives the name of Jesus. All parents must present their child to the Temple of Jerusalem in order to fulfill the Jewish rite of the redemption of the first born boy against an animal sacrifice. It is the old man Symeon, a good man and a believer, who receives it. To the sacrifice they bring two doves and two pigeons that are used for the purification of Mary (Leviticus 12. 1-8). The son of the Virgin Mary is presented here as a Master. Indeed Symeon said to the Virgin : « Behold your son who is here, he will provoke the fall and rise of many in Israel. He will be a sign of division. And you, your heart will be pierced by a sword. » Christians associate this episode with a celebration which takes place 40 days after Christmas. This date corresponds to the 2nd of February and became over time Cadlemas, while until the second Vatican Council it was still called the celebration of purification.