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Guercino, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Key facts
Full title The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Artist Guercino
Artist dates 1591 - 1666
Date made 1623
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 72.5 × 65 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir Denis Mahon CH CBE FBA, 2011; entered the Collection, 2013
Inventory number NG6646
Location Room 37
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Forty days after his birth, Mary and Joseph brought the infant Christ to the Temple in Jerusalem. According to Jewish custom, all first-born male children were to be taken to the Temple to be presented to God in a ceremony that involved the sacrifice of two doves or pigeons, visible here at the foot of the altar. The elderly seated figure is the high priest Simeon. The Gospel of Luke says that the Holy Ghost had told Simeon he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Guercino portrays the moments preceding the story’s climax, as the aged Simeon is about to hold Christ and, in recognising him, fulfil his destiny.

This work was painted for Bartolomeo Fabri, one of Guercino’s early patrons, who lived in the artist’s native Cento. It was returned to Guercino in settlement of a debt, and he kept it by his bedside until he was eventually persuaded to sell it in 1660.

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