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Dalmatian/Venetian, Saint Joachim's Offering; Meeting at the Golden Gate

Key facts
Full title Saint Joachim's Offering rejected and (below) The Meeting at the Golden Gate
Artist Dalmatian/Venetian
Group Altarpiece of the Virgin Mary
Date made about 1400
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 63.4 × 26.8 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by H.E. Luxmoore, 1927
Inventory number NG4250.2
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Joachim's Offering; Meeting at the Golden Gate

The scenes on this panel describe the conception of the Virgin Mary by her mother Anne. In the upper scene Anne’s husband Joachim attempts to make an offering of a lamb at the temple but is turned away before he reaches the altar by two bearded priests. According to the Golden Legend, a thirteenth-century compilation of the lives of the saints, he was unwelcome because of his childlessness. The next scene appears on a different panel, The Angel appearing to Saint Joachim and (below) The Birth of the Virgin.

The lower image here continues the story at a later stage. It shows Joachim and Anne kissing in front of the Golden Gate at the entrance to Jerusalem. The city is shown as a fortified and walled jumble of pitched roofs and domes, set in a hilly landscape: the artist’s vision of the rocky scenery of the Middle East. This was, according to the legend, the moment Anne conceived Mary.

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Altarpiece of the Virgin Mary


This altarpiece is a unique example in the National Gallery’s collection of a work made by a late medieval artist working on both sides of the Adriatic, the sea between Italy and the Balkan coast. The picture may be one of the earliest painted representations of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (the Virgin being conceived without sin). This was a controversial idea in this period. It was not officially included in Catholic theology until the nineteenth century, but it was celebrated in the fifteenth century, on 8 December.

The central panel showing the Virgin and Child includes celestial bodies – the sun, moon and stars – that became associated with the Immaculate Conception. The left side panels show the story of the Virgin’s miraculous birth to a couple who could not have children; the right side panels shows two miracles of the Virgin.