THE PRESENTATION OF MARY AT THE TEMPLE

TINTORETTO: 1552-1552

WHO WERE MARY’S PARENTS & WHY WAS SHE PRESENTED AT A TEMPLE?

Joachim (The Virgin Mary’s dad) was a rich and pious man married to Ann (Mary’s mother). They were advanced in age and really wanted a baby. They regularly gave to the poor and made sacrifices at the temple. However,  the couple’s childlessness was interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure and that their sacrifice was being rejected. Joachim decided to withdraw to the desert, where he fasted and did penance for 40 days. Angels appeared to both Joachim and Anne and promised them a child. The angel told them both to meet at the Golden Gate.

They meet at the gate in Jerusalem & exchange a kiss. Months later, Anne conceives and bears a daughter, Mary. In thanksgiving, the joyous couple resolve to offer their child to service in the Temple

THE PAINTING

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1. The YOUNG VM

Legend has it that the young VM was unlike other children at such a young age upon their initial entrance to the temple for service., The young VM was wholly self-possessed and rational, walking with joy to consecrate herself to the service of God. Not once did she look back to her parents or fuss about going, she only looked straight ahead.

(Compare image above is Titian's young VM in Accademia)

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2. HIGH PRIEST

Mary is heading up the steps to meet the high priest. Here, he wears clothing that seems to be a combination of a Doge and Pope. It was typical for a Venetian Doge to receive guests from the top of the stairs in the palace, like this high priest appears to be doing.

what is a high priest?
The High Priest held the holiest position in Judaism. His job was to oversee the Temple service and act as a spiritual leader to the Jewish people. His most prominent responsibility was entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

The Holy of Holies was the innermost and most sacred room in the temple of Jerusalem. It contained only the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of Israel’s special relationship with God. It was accessible only to the Israelite high priest once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The high priest would burn incense and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the Ark. By doing so, he was atoning for his sins and those of the people.

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3. GOLD INLAID STEPS

The 15 steps represent the 15 psalms recited by pilgrims in the annual temple processions. These steps are inlaid with gold leaf.

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4. MOTHERS PRESENTING RELUCTANT CHILDREN

None of the other girls around Mary seem happy to be heading up the stairs. The mother at the bottom with her back to us seems to propel her daughter forward, the mother sitting at the bottom seems to be earnestly convincing her daughter, another carries her daughter and the fourth only partially seen, points out the entrance. Unlike the other girls, The young VM silently and confidently strides ahead.

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4. MOTHERS PRESENTING RELUCTANT CHILDREN

None of the other girls around Mary seem happy to be heading up the stairs. The mother at the bottom with her back to us seems to propel her daughter forward, the mother sitting at the bottom seems to be earnestly convincing her daughter, another carries her daughter and the fourth only partially seen, points out the entrance. Unlike the other girls, The VM silently and confidently strides ahead.

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4. MOTHERS PRESENTING RELUCTANT CHILDREN

None of the other girls around Mary seem happy to be heading up the stairs. The mother at the bottom with her back to us seems to propel her daughter forward, the mother sitting at the bottom seems to be earnestly convincing her daughter, another carries her daughter and the fourth only partially seen, points out the entrance. Unlike the other girls, The VM silently and confidently strides ahead.

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4. MOTHERS PRESENTING RELUCTANT CHILDREN

None of the other girls around Mary seem happy to be heading up the stairs. The mother at the bottom with her back to us seems to propel her daughter forward, the mother sitting at the bottom seems to be earnestly convincing her daughter, another carries her daughter and the fourth only partially seen, points out the entrance. Unlike the other girls, The VM silently and confidently strides ahead.

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5. OBELISK-DECORATION

Why an obelisk? It is more of a Venetian ornamental decoration common during this time period. One is also seen in Titian's Presentation of Mary done earlier in 1538. After Titian's initial obelisk, it starts to make appearances in other Venetian Presentation of the Virgins.

It is not uncommon to see them as decoration in the North of Italy, on top of buildings or bridges.

Compare this one to Titians' obelisk (shown in the image above) from his Presentation of the Virgin-in the Accademia.

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COMPARE TO TITIAN

Titian painted the same subject first (1538) and it is hanging in the Accademia..

It was thought Tintoretto painted this to out do Titian's huge painting. He seems to use the older artist's colour scheme and the inclusion of the obelisk.

Rumor has it, Tintoretto was a pupil of Titians' for only 10 days. For whatever reason, the apprenticeship stopped and they never became pals.

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ORGAN SHUTTERS

Is this where it was stitched together? Hard to tell.

Almost all churches in the 15th and 16th centuries in Venice had at least one organ, but most have not survived. Some of the shutters, like this one, have managed to stay intact..

Most organs were enclosed in a wooden case, most often the combines efforts of artchitects, sculptures and painters. The organ case not only enhanced the organ's tone and ornamental beauty but also kept it in harmony with the other carved works of the church. Originally, the case was made to protect the instrument from dirt when the organ was not in use but for aesthetics they were decorated.

Originally, organ shutters contained paintings of the churches patron saints but with time they became more complex.

This painting, consisting of two vertical halves now stitched together in the middle, once adorned the outsides of two organ wings.

THE ARTIST

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OTHER “PRESENTATION OF THE TEMPLE” BY VENETIAN ARTISTS

TITIAN:1538

ANTONIO VASSILACCHI: 1600