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Woodcut - The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
  • The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
    Dürer, Albrecht, born 1471 - died 1528
  • Enlarge image

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

  • Object:

    Woodcut

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (designed)

  • Date:

    1503-1505 (designed)
    1511 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dürer, Albrecht, born 1471 - died 1528 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woodcut on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Miss Alice G. E. Carthew

  • Museum number:

    E.698-1940

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery, case 21

The subject of this print is the bringing of the infant Jesus by Mary and Joseph to the Temple in Jerusalem to be consecrated to the Lord. According to the Bible, the Jewish rite of the 'purification' of the mother, which required the sacrifice of a pair of turtle doves or young pigeons, was celebrated simultaneously with the consecration of the infant.

A devout man, Simeon, who had been told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, came to the Temple and took the infant Christ in his arms saying 'Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace...'. At the same time he prophesied that through her child Mary would be pierced to the heart. An aged prophetess, Anna, was also present.

Dürer has produced a dramatic and highly memorable representation of these events, crowded with onlookers and set in a monumental architectural setting. Simeon, dressed as a High Priest of the Temple, holds the infant Christ above the altar. A female attendant kneels in the foreground with the cage of birds. Joseph stands behind her and next to him stands Mary, with the prophetess Anna pointing at her.

Physical description

Woodcut print on paper depicting the presentation of Christ in the Temple

Place of Origin

Germany (designed)

Date

1503-1505 (designed)
1511 (published)

Artist/maker

Dürer, Albrecht, born 1471 - died 1528 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Woodcut on paper

Marks and inscriptions

AD in monogram
The artist's monogram on a tablet hanging from a column in the foreground.

Flower with triangle.
Watermark in the paper on which this woodcut is printed. [Arrow with a triangular head and six petalled flower on the other end]. Briquet 6485, The Illustrated Bartsch, p.589

Dimensions

Height: 29.9 cm cut to, Width: 21 cm cut to

Historical context note

This is one of a series of twenty woodcuts by this artist, depicting the Life of the Virgin. The earliest woodcuts in the series date from 1502, others from before Dürer went to Italy in 1505, and two date from 1510. When published together in book form in 1511 the twenty woodcut images were accompanied by a text prepared by Benedictus Chelidonius, a monk at St Aegidius' Monastery in Nuremberg.

Dürer's literary sources for the series included not only the gospels but the apocryphal 'Gospel of the Birth of Mary' and the 'Protoevangelium of Jesus'.

The subject is the bringing of the infant Jesus by Mary and Joesph to the Temple in Jerusalem to be consecrated to the Lord. Mosaic law required the firstborn of all living things to be sacrificed to the Lord, children being redeemed by the sacrifice of 5 shekels. Adopted as a Christian feast by the early Church.

According to Luke the Jewish rite of the 'purification' of the mother, which required the sacrifice of a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons, was celebrated simultaneously and this also later became a Christian festival. The feast of the Purification incorporated a procession of candles hence its name Candlemas.

A devout man Simeon, who had been told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, came to the Temple, took the infant Christ in his arms saying 'Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace...' At the same time he prophesied that through her child Mary would be pierced to the heart.

According to Luke also present was an aged prophetess Anna.

See Hall's Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art, Fakenham 1974.

In this print Mary kneels offering a cage containing the birds while Joseph stands behind her. At the right Simeon, dressed as a High Priest of the Temple, holds the infant Christ above the altar. To his right stands Anna, pointing with her right hand in a gesture of prophesy at Mary.

Descriptive line

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, woodcut by Albrecht Dürer

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Bartsch, Adam von. Le peintre graveur. Vienna, 1803-182. 21 vols. no 88.
Bartrum, Giulia. Albrecht Dürer and His Legacy. London, 2002. p.247, no 200.

Labels and date

THE PRESENTATION OF CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE

The image originated in a woodcut by the German artist Albrecht Dürer. His prints reached a wide audience and elements of their designs were incorporated into different media, especially in Italy. However, Dürer did not appreciate Marcantonio Raimondi copying his monogram and complained to the Venetian authorities.

When the unknown painter from Faenza modified Dürer's design for his dish [C.159-1937], he used figures from another of Dürer's prints to fill in the spaces at the sides.

Woodcut on paper
1503-5

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

Germany

Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew

Museum no. E.698-1940 []

Production Note

Although the series was designed and first published between 1503 and 1505, the Latin text on the back of the sheet indicates that this impression comes from the 1511 edition of the Life of the Virgin.

Materials

Laid paper; Printing ink

Techniques

Woodcut

Subjects depicted

Altar; Doves; Candles

Categories

Prints; Christianity; Religion; Woodcuts

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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