Italian Paintings – The Presentation

“The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple” is one of Titian’s most celebrated works. It is in the Academy at Venice. The legend relates that when the child Mary was three years old, Joachim said: “Let us invite the daughters of Israel and they shall each take a taper or a lamp and attend on her, that the. child may not turn back from the temple of the Lord.” And being come unto the temple they placed her on the first step and she ascended alone all the steps to the altar, and the High Priest received her there, kissed her and blessed her, saying, “Mary, the Lord bath magnified thy name to all generations, and in thee shall be made known the redemption of the children of Israel.” Such is the incident which, in artistic representation, is sometimes called “The Dedication,” oftener “The Presentation.” The motif does not vary. The child Mary, sometimes in blue, but oftener in a white robe, with long golden hair, ascends the steps which lead to the porch of the temple. The steps are always fifteen in number, the reason being based on a passage in Josephus, who says, “Between the wall which separated the men from the women and the great porch of the temple were fifteen steps.” In this picture Mary, holding up her light blue drapery, ascends the steps. A number of portraits add to the value and interest of the picture. Titian himself is looking up. Near him stands his friend, Andrea di Franchesi, Grand Chancellor of Venice, robed as a Cavalier di San Marco. Joachim and St. Anne are there too. His face you do not see. He has turned to St. Anne as if to be sure that she sees their child. Her face and hands express perfectly what she feels. The fine bearded face of the priest who stands behind the High Priest is a portrait of Raphael’s friend, Cardinal Bembo. The old egg woman is thought to be a portrait of Titian’s mother.

( Originally Published 1912 )

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