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Master of Liesborn, 'The Presentation in the Temple', probably 1470-80

Key facts
Full title The Presentation in the Temple
Artist Master of Liesborn
Artist dates active second half of the 15th century
Series The Liesborn Altarpiece
Date made probably 1470-80
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from oak
Dimensions 98.4 × 70.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG257
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Presentation in the Temple
Master of Liesborn

This is one of the few surviving intact scenes which once formed part of an altarpiece made for the high altar of the Benedictine abbey at Liesborn in the west of Germany. This painting is likely to have originally appeared to the right of the main scene showing the Crucifixion.

Shortly after birth, Jewish boys were required by religious law to be presented at the temple to be consecrated. Here, the Virgin Mary is about to hand Christ over to the priest. This is Simeon, who is described in the Gospel of Luke as recognising Christ’s divinity and significance at this moment (Luke 2: 28–30). Simeon was one of the saints to whom the altarpiece was dedicated.

The artist has set this biblical event in a contemporary setting that would be familiar to worshippers. The temple, for example, is represented as a Gothic church with a high vaulted roof and decorative leaded windows.

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The Liesborn Altarpiece


These images once formed part of a large altarpiece made for the high altar of the monastery church of the Benedictine abbey at Liesborn, in Westphalia in north-west Germany. The main panel consisted of a central scene of the Crucifixion, flanked on either side by two smaller individual scenes from Christ’s infancy.

In 1517 two shutters painted by the Master of Cappenberg were added to either side of the Master of Liesborn’s original panel. These showed the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion, his resurrection and events that occurred afterwards, such as the Pentecost.

The altarpiece was removed in the eighteenth century and later cut up; only fragments survive. Six images from the main panel are in the National Gallery’s collection: three fragments of the central Crucifixion, two complete flanking images (The Annunciation and The Presentation in the Temple) and a fragment of The Adoration of the Kings, another flanking scene. Two further images come from the shutters.