The Circumcision

The picture was probably completed in 1491 for the high altar of the oratory of the Confraternity of the Holy Name of Jesus, attached to the Church of San Francesco, Volterra.

The Virgin, Saint Joseph (with a staff) and Saint Simeon are distinguished by haloes. Simeon is depicted raising his hands in which he has just held Christ and thanking God for letting him see the Redeemer. The Naming of Jesus, his Presentation and Circumcision occur together in the Gospel of Saint Luke (2: 21-36) – hence the choice of this subject by the confraternity.

The circular reliefs in the spandrels of the arch represent a prophet and a sibyl who foretold Christ's coming. Vasari mentions that the painting was damaged by damp and that the Child was repainted by Sodoma. The explicit representation of the circumcision may have also been the real reason for Sodoma's revision.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1440/50 - 1523
Full title
The Circumcision
Date made
about 1490-1
Medium and support
Oil on canvas, mounted on board, transferred from wood
258.5 x 180 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1882
Inventory number
Location in Gallery