Skip to main content
The Circumcision
Workshop of Giovanni Bellini
/

According to the Gospel of Luke, Christ was circumcised, like all Jewish baby boys, when he was eight days old (Luke 2: 21). He is shown naked, sitting on a cushion upon a table or altar, clenching his little fists as a priest performs the ritual. His mother, the Virgin Mary, gently props him up; the old man behind is his father, Joseph.

Christ’s nakedness emphasises his vulnerability, and his position on the altar is probably intended to bring to mind a sacrifice – like that of a lamb, part of Jewish religious tradition in this period. In the Gospels, John the Baptist refers to Christ as the ‘lamb of God’, anticipating his sacrifice at the Crucifixion.

Bellini may have contributed to the women’s faces but the texture of the fabrics is not as convincing as in his portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan, for example, suggesting much of the work was done by his assistants.

Key facts
Artist Workshop of Giovanni Bellini
Artist dates about 1435 - 1516
Full title The Circumcision
Date made about 1500
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 74.9 x 102.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by the Earl of Carlisle, 1895
Inventory number NG1455
Location in Gallery Not on display
Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download an 800px wide, 72dpi copy of this image.

License this image

License and download a high resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Yes, I'd like to donate
Or
Download low resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo