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Work The Presentation in the Temple

Department of Paintings: Italian painting

The Presentation in the Temple

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

Italian painting

Cécile Maisonneuve

Part of the retable predella painted in 1423 that was commissioned by Palla Strozzi to decorate the family chapel in the Santa Trinità church, Florence.
The central panel, The Adoration of the Magi, and the two other elements of the predella, The Nativity and The Flight into Egypt, are conserved in their sumptuous original frames in the Uffizi in Florence.

In the heart of the city

In the heart of a city, a polygonal temple opens onto a flagged square flanked by palaces and, on the right, a portico. The Virgin and Joseph have come here to present their first-born Son to the Lord and offer two young doves in sacrifice. On the right stand Simeon and the prophetess Anna, who holds a phylactery. Receiving the Child into his arms, Simon recognizes the Messiah that the Lord promised he would behold before his death. Anna points out the Savior to "all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38). On either side of the building a crowd has gathered. To the left, two women elegantly dressed in the fashion of the 15th century observe the scene from outside, while to the right a pair of old beggars ask for alms.
During this period, the architect Brunelleschi (1377-1446) had already produced his first perspective composition - now lost - of the Baptistery square. Although Gentile does not respect the laws of perspective here, the urban setting of the Presentation in the Temple, with its central polygonal structure, was often considered one of the oldest iterations in painting of Brunelleschi's experiment. The portico on the painting's right was often taken to represent the Brunelleschi's Portico degli Innocenti, started in 1419 and still under construction when this painting was produced. While Gentile was attentive to the investigations of the great Florentine architect, he was more inclined to follow the example of the sculptor and goldsmith Ghiberti (1378-1455), who was then finishing the north door of the Baptistery, with whom he shared a poetics of the elegant line.

A Strozzi commission

This panel is an element of the retable predella commissioned around 1421 from Gentile da Fabriano by Palla Strozzi, a member of one of the richest Florentine families. The altarpiece (Florence, Uffizi) was designed for the Strozzi family chapel in the Santa Trinità church. The main panel depicts The Adoration of the Magi; the two other sections of the predella, which remain in situ, depict The Nativity and The Flight from Egypt. The original frame of the retable bears the artist's signature, "OPUS GENTILIS DE FABRIANO," with the date "MCCCCXXIII MENSIS MAIJ" (May 1423). In this period, Gentile da Fabriano was one of the best-known Italian artists, the embodiment of International Gothic. It is a lavish retable, covered in gold and silver, produced in a city where a new art was being born.

A touch of realism

Although inclined to render the folds of cloth in an unrealistic manner, Gentile da Fabriano introduces, in this generally decorative work, slices of real urban life, as in the case of the two beggars. His treatment of light - or rather, lights - makes evident the careful observation of real phenomena. In this painting there are two distinct sources: the light that radiates from the lamp hanging in the center of the room and bathes the interior of the temple with a warm, subtly golden atmosphere; and the natural light of day, whiter and colder, which illuminates the city and its citizens, creating illusionistic effects on the metallic discs in relief that decorate the spandrels of the arches.

Technical description

  • GENTILE DA FABRIANO (Fabriano, c. 1370 - Rome, 1427)

    The Presentation in the Temple


  • H. 0.26 m; W. 0.62 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1812 , 1812

    INV. 295

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Salle des Sept-Mètres
    Room 709

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