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Master of the Life of the Virgin, The Presentation in the Temple

Key facts
Full title The Presentation in the Temple
Artist Master of the Life of the Virgin
Artist dates active second half of the 15th century
Date made probably about 1460-75
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 83.8 × 108.6 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG706
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Presentation in the Temple
Master of the Life of the Virgin

The priest Simeon is shown receiving the infant Christ from the Virgin Mary in front of an elaborate altar. The scene is based on a passage in the Gospel of Luke (2:22–40), which describes Mary and Joseph’s visit to the temple in Jerusalem for the rituals of Mary’s purification and of Christ’s presentation to God.

Simeon recognised Christ’s divinity upon seeing him, saying ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation’ (Luke 2: 29–30). The embroidery on his cope shows the Roman Emperor Augustus having a vision of the Virgin and Child – a decisive experience which made the ruler recognise that their spiritual power was greater than his.

This painting, along with seven other panels now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, once formed part of the central panel of an altarpiece made for the church of Saint Ursula in Cologne. It was commissioned by Dr Johann von Hirtz, a councillor in the city.

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