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Forty days after his birth, Mary and Joseph brought the infant Christ to the Temple in Jerusalem. According to Jewish custom, all first-born male children were to be taken to the Temple to be presented to God in a ceremony that involved the sacrifice of two doves or pigeons, visible here at the foot of the altar. The elderly seated figure is the high priest Simeon. The Gospel of Luke says that the Holy Ghost had told Simeon he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Guercino portrays the moments preceding the story’s climax, as the aged Simeon is about to hold Christ and, in recognising him, fulfil his destiny.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Oil on copper
H 72.5 x W 65 cm
Bequeathed by Sir Denis Mahon CH CBE FBA, 2011; entered the Collection, 2013