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THE PRESENTATION OF THE CHRIST CHILD IN THE TEMPLE, ABOUT 1320

About the Artwork

At first glance the small painting of The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple looks like a self-contained object. It has a balanced composition: two pairs of standing figures flank a dainty ciborium that symbolizes the Temple of Jerusalem. Following the gospel of Luke, the artist has illustrated the dramatic moment when Simeon and the prophetess Anna recognize the Christ Child as the savior.

Ever since the early nineteenth century, the Presentation has been known to be one of a series of seven paintings of the life of Christ (the others are in Munich, London, and New York). Although some scholars have questioned the traditional attribution of the series to Giotto, all the scenes are devised with such imagination and executed with such depth of feeling that only he could have painted them. There is nothing stereotyped about the compositions: each action is expressive, each face is individual. Thus, in the Presentation, the child struggles to get back in his mother’s arms. None of Giotto’s followers made such telling observations of human behavior.

Source: Everett Fahy (1978), "The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 39

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