Saturday, February 6, 2016

Deadly Dance

Giovanni Baronzio, Feast of Herod and
Beheading of John the Baptist
Italian, c.1330-35
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Robert Lehman Collection
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers,
and the leading men of Galilee.
His own daughter came in and performed a dance
that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once on a platter
the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner
with orders to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter
and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Mark 6:17-29 (Excerpt from the Gospel for February 5, 2016)

Beheading of John the Baptist
From Book of Hours
French (Paris), 1230-39
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M92, fol. 112r
Previously we have looked at some of the aspects of the life and iconography of St. John the Baptist, specifically his birth, his childhood and his role as baptizer and prophet.  The reading above reminds us of the circumstances of his death.  We have John in prison, a captive to Herod Antipas (not Herod the Great).  Herod has married Herodias, the divorced wife of his own brother Philip, and has adopted her daughter, Salome.  John is in prison because of his very vocal opposition to this marriage, which is deemed to be incestuous under Jewish law.  Because of his stance Herodias hates him, while Herod is troubled, but also fascinated by John.  
Jean le Noir, Herod's Feast
 From Petites heures de Jean de Berry
French (Paris), ca. 1375
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 18014, 212v

At a dinner on his birthday to which Herod has invited a number of important guests, Salome performs a dance about which we are told nothing, except that it “delighted” the king and his guests.  Apparently well satisfied Herod rather boastfully tells Salome that he will give her anything she asks for “even to half of my kingdom”.  Urged on by her mother she asks for the immediate execution of John and for his head on a platter.  Not exactly delighted by this request, but feeling bound by his very public promises, Herod complies.  

Beheading of John the Baptist
From Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainaut), 1285-90
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquistion francaise 16251, fol. 57v

John is killed by being beheaded and Salome gives the head to her mother.  Thus the story of St. John the Baptist ends in a sadly capricious and trivial way.  But what a story artists have woven on top of this!

Feast of Herod
From Codex Sinopensis (New Testament)
Syrian or Turkish, 550-600
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Supplement grec 12856, fol.10v
To begin with, the idea of someone being executed because of the incident of a young girl’s dance is an interesting one. Early images told the story in a straightforward manner.  Sometimes one aspect of the story was the sole image, but sometimes vignettes from the entire story would be included.  
Salome Presenting the Head of John the Baptist
Romanesque captial
French, ca. 1120
Toulouse, Musee des Augustins

We might see Salome dancing, consulting her mother about what to ask for, the beheading of the Baptist, the delivery of the head to Salome and her presentation of it to her mother all in one image.  

Herod's Feast, Salome's Dance, Beheading of John the Baptist
and Presentation of His Head
West Portal, Left Door of Rouen Cathedral
French, 1150-1200
Rouen, Cathdral of Notre-Dame

Salome Dancing, From The Taymouth Hours
English (London), 1325-1350
London, British Library
MS Yates Thompson 13, fol. 106v

Occasionally, Salome’s dance, which is never described in the Gospels, was interpreted as an acrobatic demonstration worthy of participation in the Olympics!1

Giotto, Herod's Feast
Italian, c.1315
Florence, Santa Croce, Peruzzi Chapel

Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Herod's Feast and Beheading of John the Baptist
From Vincentiius Bellovacensis, Speculum historiale
French (Paris), 1333-1334
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 316, fol. 336

Fra Angelico, Herod's Feast
Italian, ca.1430
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Masolino da Panicale, Herod's Feast
Italian, 1436
Castiglione Olona, Baptistery
Here we see the feast, Salome's delivery of the head to
her mother and, high in the background, the burial
of John's body by his disciples.

Fra Filippo Lippi, Herod's Banquet
Italian, 1452-1465
Prato, Duomo

Master Francois and collabators
From Vincentius Bellovacensis, Speculum historiale
French, Paris, 1463
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
Francais 51, 270

Over time, though, two scenes came to dominate the iconography.  These were the dance of Salome and her acceptance of the head of the Baptist. 
Donatello, Herod's Feast
Italian, c.1439
Lille, Musee des Beaux-Arts

Benozzo Gozzoli. Herod's Feast
Italian, 1461-1462
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Herod's Banquet
Italian, 1486-1490
Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Tornabuoni Chapel

Although both had existed during an earlier period, beginning in the fifteenth century these two themes begin to take off in numbers, until by the beginning of the seventeenth century these are about all that is left.
Salome Receiving the Head of the Baptist
From Breviary
French (Paris), 1345-1355
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M75, fol. 488v

Jean le Noir, Salome Receiving the Head of the Baptist
From Petites heures de Jean de Berry
French (Paris), ca. 1375
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 18014, fol. 214

Rogier van der Weyden, Salome Receiving the Head of the Baptist
From St. John Altarpiece, Right Wing
Flemish, 1455-1460
Berlin, Staatliche Museen

Hans Memling, Salome Receiving the Head of the Baptist
From St. John Altarpiece, Left Wing
Italian, 1474-1479
Bruges, Memlingmuseum, Sint-Janshospitaal

And it is at this point that we begin to see something new.  A long sequence of images shows only Salome and the bloody head on a platter.

Andrea Solario, Salome
Italian, 1506-1507
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sebastiano del Piombo, Salome
Italian, 1510
London, National Gallery

Bernardino Luini, Salome
Italian, 1527-1531
Florence, Galleria degli'Uffizi

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Salome
German, c.1530
Budapest, National Museum

Caravaggio, Salome with the  Head of the Baptist
Italian, 1609-1610
London, National Gallery

In these images Salome (and in one case at least Herodias) appears to respond to the proximity of the head with a kind of meditative stillness and solemn thoughtfulness even when there are other characters in the scene.

Francesco del Cairo, Herodias with the  Head of the Baptist
Italian, 1625-1630
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Although similar to the images of Salome with the
head, this image of Herodias carries a tone of
revenge, as she grasps the tongue of the Baptist,
with which he had denounced her marriage to Herod.

Guido Reni, Salome
Italian, 1635
Rome, Corsini Gallery

Carlo Dolci, Salome
Italian, 1665-1670
Windsor, Royal Collection

Paolo Gerolamo Piola, Salome
Italian, 1700-1710
Private Collection

Some recent scholarship has proposed that this is to be read as a reference to the Eucharist, in which the head of John, resting on the platter, is likened to the Eucharistic Body of Christ, the Host, resting on the paten at Mass. 2   I do not find the argument entirely convincing, as I think it rests on an overly zealous reading of some of the quotations from the Fathers contained in such medieval compendia as the Catena aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas. 3 Nevertheless, there is definitely something happening in these solemn images, as well as in a series of pictures of the head of John, resting on a platter, that lack any other figure, even that of Salome.  This is a subject for a different essay, however.

Aelbert Bouts, Head of St. John the Baptist On A Charger
Italian, ca.1500
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Andrea Solario, Head of St. John the Baptist On A Charger
Italian, c.1507
Paris, Musee du Louvre

This solemnity lasted into the eighteenth century.  However, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, as the beginning ripples of what would become Romanticism began to be felt, some of these ripples affected the image of Salome’s reaction to the head.  Since one of the elements of the Romantic vision is a fascination with the grotesque we begin to see Salome taking a more personal interest in the gruesome evidence of her success.
Henry Fuseli, Salome With the Head of John the Baptist
Swiss, 1790s
Sold at Christie's London December 3, 2014

Thomas Holloway after Henry Fuseli, Salome
With the Head of John the Baptist
Emglish, 1798
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Further, under the impact of Orientalism in the early nineteenth century, with its interest in the Middle East 4
Jean Leon Gerome, Dance of the Almeh
French, 1863
Dayton, Art Institute
and especially in sensuous aspects of the East, such as the harem and skimpily clad dancing girls, Salome began to transform from a young, relatively innocent woman into an alluring femme fatale.
Henri Regnault, Salome
French, 1870
New York, Metropoliltan Museum of Art

Gustave Moreau, Salome Dancing before Herod
French, 1876
Paris, Musee Gustave Moreau

Gustave Moreau, The Apparition
French, ca. 1890
Paris, Musee Gustave Moreau

Finally, just before the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century, a series of poems and plays, culminating in Oscar Wilde’s sensational Salome, in which Salome develops a sexual fixation on John the Baptist and eventually shocked audiences by expressing her passion by an extremely sensual kiss on the dead lips.5
Aubrey Beardsley, The Reward
Illustration for Wilde's Salome
English, 1894
Aubrey Beardsley, The Climax
Illustratin for Wilde's Salome
English, 1894

James Tissot, Salome With the Head of John the Baptist
French, 1886-1896
New York, Brooklyn Museum

Quickly developed into an opera by the then-advanced composer, Richard Strauss, it remains very much alive in the contemporary repertoire.
Alphonse Maria Mucha, Salome
Czech, 1897
Private Collection

The welding of sensuality, demented love, brutality and ultimately death are reflected in many of the images that come to us from artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  But it is probably the invention of the “Dance of the Seven Veils” that had the greatest influence.  Simply named in a stage direction in the Wilde play, it became an actual dance in the Strauss opera (typically performed by a dancer, not the sometimes hefty singer of the role).
Georges de Feure, Comedie Parisienne, La Loie Fuller as Salome
French, 1900
New York, Metropolitan Musem of Art

This, plus the already existing Orientalist image of the exotic dancer of the Middle East, turned Salome and her dance into an exaggerated, near naked version of the belly dance (or the stomach dance as it is called by the early illustrator of Wilde’s play, Aubrey Beardsley).

Lovis Corinth, Salome
German, 1900
Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Kuenste

Franz von Stuck, Salome
German, 1906
Private Collection

Robert Henri, Salome
American, 1909
Sarasota, John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art

Gaston Bussiere, Salome
French, 1914
Private Collection

And that is the image that persists in art.  So that St. John has become almost a minor character, even in his own death.

© M. Duffy, 2016
  1.       For a brief history of the image of Salome see Rodney, Nanette B. “Salome”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 11, No. 7, March 1953, pp. 190-200.
  2.             Reed, Victoria S. “Rogier van der Weyden’s “Saint John Triptych” for Miraflores and a Reconsideration of Salome”, Oud Holland, Vol. 115, No. 1, 2001/2002, pp. 1-14. 
  3.              St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena aurea, Volume II, Gospel of Mark, Chapter 6, §118, J.G.F. and J. Rivington, London, 1842.  Found at:
  4.             Udo Kultermann.  “’Dance of the Seven Veils’ Salome and Erotic Culture Around 1900”, Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 27, No. 53, 2006, pp. 187-215.
  5.       Wilde, Oscar, Salome, 1891.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Feast of the Presentation in the Temple and Purification of Mary

Alvaro Pirez, Presentation
Portuguese, ca. 1430
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him. 
Luke 2:22-40
(Gospel for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, February 2)

From Troparium, Prosarium, Graduale
German (Pruem), 986-1101
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9448, fol. 28
St. Luke, who gives us the most detailed account of the birth of Jesus, from the Annunciation to this event of the Presentation, is traditionally believed to have been in touch with Mary and to have gained his knowledge of these events from her or at least from someone who knew her well.  The intimate details of events such as those recounted in the Gospel for the Presentation would seem to confirm this.  However, he also wants to show his readers that the parents of Jesus were devout and humble Jews, careful to fulfill the requirements of the Law, even as they raised the One who would bring salvation to Israel and to all people.

Fra Angelico, Presentation
Italian, 1433-1434
Cortona, Museo Diocesano

The Mosaic law laid down two requirements on the birth of a first son to any couple.  First, the male child was to be consecrated to the Lord as a reminder of the last plague of the Exodus, during which the first born of the Egyptians were killed (Exodus 13).  But the child could be redeemed for a payment of five silver sheckels to a member of a priestly clan (Numbers 18:16).

From Hours of Louis of Savoy
French (Savoy), 1445-1460
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9473, fol. 55
Second, a woman who had given birth to a boy was required to spend 40 days without touching anything sacred.  At the end of this time “she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a yearling lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a turtledove for a purification offering…If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a purification offering. The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.” (Leviticus 12:1-8)

Ambrogio da Fossano, Presentation
Italian, 1497-1500
Lodi, Tempio Civico della 
Beata Vergain Incoronata

Luke conflates what would be two separate events, the redemption of the child and the purification of the mother, into one story.  Mary and Joseph bring their son to the Temple to pay his ransom and to certify Mary as recovered from childbirth.  He then weaves into the tale the reactions of Simeon and Anna, two pious old people who have prophetic gifts and who recognize the child for Who He is.  

Giuseppe Cesari, Purification
Italian, 1617-1627
Rome, Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella

This is another epiphany.  There have been epiphanies to the lowly shepherds of Bethlehem, to the learned Wise Men from the Gentile nations and now there is an epiphany to those in Jerusalem who are capable of seeing. 
Rembrandt, Presentation
Dutch, 1631
The Hague, Mauritshuis Museum

We know that a feast of the Presentation/Purification was celebrated in Jerusalem as early as the fourth century when it was described by the pilgrim, Egeria.  From there it gradually spread to the entire church, reaching the church in Rome by the seventh century.  In the West it became known as the Purification of Mary and was set on February 2nd.  

Philippe de Champaigne, Presentation
French, 1648
Brussels, Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts
By the eleventh century a solemn blessing of and procession with candles had been introduced and the day began to be known as Candlemas. 1 The procession with candles marked the entry of “the light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory of your people Israel” into the Temple.  Over time it began to be seen as the last event of the Christmas season.  It was the day on which people turned their attention from the coming of Christ, removing any remaining decorations, and began their preparation for Easter with the onset of Lent. 

Artists have given us many, many images of the event and these images tell us some very important things. 

The Meeting with Simeon

The lovely words of Simeon have been preserved in the daily prayer of the Church, the Divine Office (or the Hours) as the Biblical canticle for the daily prayer that ends the day, Compline.  Called the “Nunc dimittis” it is recited every evening before bed by all who pray the Hours, be they priest, religious or lay person.  So the images that form in the mind have been given visual form by artists.  
Johann Hiebel, Presentation
German, 1727-31
Litomerice (Czech Republic), Jesuit Church of the Annunciation
The simplest image is that of the meeting between the aged Simeon and the Child Jesus.  Many artists have chosen this as the image they want to present.  These images frequently represent the event as taking place outside the temple building, as is implied by the text of the Gospel.  Details such as the two pigeons for the offering may be included. 
Heinrich Seling, Presentation
German, 1890-1893
Hamburg, St. Mary's Cathedral

The images above and on the left are part of this iconographic stream.  

The First Hint of Public Sacrifice

But there is another set of images, far surpassing the Meeting in number, that have been the favored image type, especially during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
From Sacramentary of Drogo
French (Metz), ca.850
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9428, fol.38

In these images the visual emphasis is not on the meeting between the old man and the Child, but the future of the Child as a willing sacrificial victim.  In these images the Christ Child is shown in relation to the altar of the temple.  He may be placed or about to be placed on it, and shown sitting, standing or lying on it, or it may simply be in the space between Mary and Simeon (or sometimes a temple priest). 2  In addition, some of the other figures in the story, such as St. Joseph and the prophetess, Anna, may not be there at all.

From Sacramentary
German (Reichenau), 1020-1040
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 18005, fol. 42v

These images call to mind, not the entrance of the light into the temple, but the impending sacrifice on the Cross.  This, the dark side of the Christmas story, is often ignored today, but was definitely fully realized in earlier centuries.  Christ came as a child to suffer and to die for humanity.  He is the sacrificial victim, the pure Lamb of God, whose coming was foreshadowed in earlier images of sacrifice, even including the offerings of his own parents.
Presentation (in the lower right roundel)
From Missal
French (St. Maur-des-Fosses), 11th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 12054, fol.148v
This image makes the connection between the
events of the Nativity and the Passion explicit.

Consequently, in these images he takes the place, sometimes directly, but always at least visually, on the altar where the temple sacrifices also lay.
Presentation and Crucifixion, Ivory Diptych
French, 14th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

On the other hand, this altar itself often looks forward to the Christian sacrifice of the Mass.  The altars are frequently draped in cloth, just as the altar is draped for the celebration of the Mass.

From Evangeliary
German (Pruem), 1100-1130
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 17325, fol. 21v
From St. Albans Psalter
English (St. Albans), 1121-1146_
Hildesheim, Dombibliothek

From Psalter of St. Louis and of Blanche de Castille
French, ca. 1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1186, fol.18

Guido da Siena, Presentation
Italian, 1270s
Paris, Musee du Louvre

From Psalter
French (St.Omer), 1275-1300
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Smith-Lesouef 20, f.12v

Master of Banacavallo, Presentation
Italian (Imola), c.1278
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pietro Cavallini, Presentation
Italian, 1285-95
Rome, Church of Santa Maria in Trestevere

Giotto, Presentation
Italian, 1304-06
Padua, Arena Chapel

Duccio, Presentation
From the Maesta Altarpiece
Italian, 1308-11
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
From The Cloisters Apocalypse
French (Normandy), ca. 1330
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection
Accession Number 68.174, fol.2r

From Bible moralisee
Italy_Naples, ca. 1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9561, fol . 137v

Master of the Paremont de Narbonne, Presentation
From Tres Belles Heures de Notre-Dame de Jean de Berry
French (Paris), c. 1380
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 3093, fol.56

Melchior Broederlam, Presentation
Flemish, 1393-99
Dijon, Musee des Beaux-Arts

Herman,Paul, Jean de Limburg, Presentation
From Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry
French, 1405-08-9
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection
Accession Number 54.1.1a, fol.57r

Fra Angelico, Presentation
Florence, Museo di San Marco, Cell 10
Presented as a vision before the eyes of two
Dominican saints, we see the altar behind the
figures.  Sacrificial flames can be seen issuing from
it just under the hands of Mary.

Hans Memling, Presentation
Flemish, 1463
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Rambures Master, Presentation and its Old Testament Precedents
From Biblia pauperum
French (Hesdin or Amiens), c. 1470
The Hague, Museum Meermano-Westreenianum
MS 10 A 15, fol. 22v
Frequently also, the hands of Simeon, the priest and/or the Virgin Mary are shown as draped as well, just as the hands of priests are draped to carry the monstrance which displays the Eucharistic Body of Christ, as if the body of the Child were already the consecrated Body.3

Follower of Master of Jean Rolin, Presentation
From Book of Hours
French, (Paris), c. 1450
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS  74 F 1, fol. 80r

Follower of Jean Pichore, Presentation
 From Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1500
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS  74 G 22, fol. 95v

This may have had even greater force than it may at first appear to us, because in the Middle Ages there were frequently reported visions of the apparition of a small child in the hands of the priest following the consecration of the Mass, when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.  These apparitions were so well known that St. Thomas Aquinas even devotes to them a portion of the discussion on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the Summa Theologica.4

Raphael, Presentation
Italian, 1502-1503
Vatican City, Pinacoteca
Jan Joest of Kalkar, Presentation
Dutch, 1508
Kalkar Kreis Kleve, Catholic parish church of St. Nicholas

Jan van Scorel, Presentation
Dutch, 1524-26
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Anonymous, Presentation
Dutch, 1601-1650
Altenburg, Lindenau Museum

Giovanni DomenicoTiepolo, Presentation
Italian, 1754
Stockholm, National Museum

Pieter Jozef Verhaghen, Presentation
Flemish, 1767
Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten
(In these last two pictures, by Tiepolo and Verhaghen the presence
of the altar is not as visible as in earlier works, but it is
still a presence to the side of the scene.

Indeterminate Images

There are also a few images that don’t fit either type very well.  While not including the actual altar of sacrifice, they often show some of the other elements that signal the reference to sacrifice, even if it is just a reluctance on the part of the participants to hand Him back and forth. 

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Presentation
Italian, 1342
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi

Andrea Mantegna, Presentation
Italian, ca. 1460
Berlin, Staatliche Museen

Vittore Carpaccio, Presentation
Italian, 1510
Venice, Gallerie del'Accademia

Jean Bourdichon, Presentation
From Grades Heures d'Anne de Bretagne
French (Tours), 1503-1508
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9474, fol. 70v

Andrea Celesti, Presentation
Italian, c.1710
Venice, Church of San Zaccaria

Consequently, we can see that not only is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus/Purification of Mary/Candlemas about the event of Jesus’ first experience of the temple or of his meeting with Simeon or of the prophecies of Simeon and Anna, but it is about his impending sacrifice and about the prolongation of that sacrifice that we know as the Eucharist.

© M. Duffy, 2016
1.       For information on the feast of the Presentation/Purification see:  Holweck, Frederick. "Candlemas." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company,1908. 2 Feb. 2016 .
2.       Schorr, Dorothy C., “The Iconographic Development of the Presentation in the Temple”, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 1, March 1946, pp. 17-32.
3.       Sinanoglou, Leah. “The Christ Child as Sacrifice:  A Medieval Tradition and the Corpus Christi Plays”, Speculum, Vol. 48, No. 3, July 1973, pp. 491-509.
4.       Aquinas, St. Thomas.  The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Second and Revised Edition, 1920.  Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Online Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight, Part III, Question 76, Article 8.

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