Sunday, December 19, 2010

Presentation in the Temple

Title: Presentation in the Temple
Artist: Lodovico Carracci
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 122 x 92 cm
Date: c. 1605
Location: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

Luke 2:22-35: The time for making them pure came as it is written in the Law of Moses. So Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem. There they presented him to the Lord. In the Law of the Lord it says, "The first boy born in every family must be set apart for the Lord." They also offered a sacrifice. They did it in keeping with the Law, which says, "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." In Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was a good and godly man. He was waiting for God's promise to Israel to happen. The Holy Spirit was with him. The Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. The Spirit led him into the temple courtyard. Then Jesus' parents brought the child in. They came to do for him what the Law required. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said, "Lord, you are the King over all. Now let me, your servant, go in peace. That is what you promised. My eyes have seen your salvation. You have prepared it in the sight of all people. It is a light to be given to those who aren't Jews. It will bring glory to your people Israel." The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them. He said to Mary, Jesus' mother, "This child is going to cause many people in Israel to fall and to rise. God has sent him. But many will speak against him. The thoughts of many hearts will be known. A sword will wound your own soul too."

Jesus' parents are law-abiding Jews. They show up at the temple to perform sacrifices associated with the wife's purification after birth. Such a ceremony occurs forty days after the child's arrival. The Spirit of God directs this scene, because he had revealed to Simeon that death would not come until he had seen the Lord's Christ. Promise, fulfillment and God's direction stand behind the prophecy of this old saint.

In contrast to Caravaggio, who attracted many critics during his lifetime, the Carracci's classicism was extremely successful amongst aristocratic circles and produced a school with numerous followers. Annibale Carracci headed the workshop, which also included his gifted cousin Lodovico. The scene in the Presentation in the Temple is subordinated to a geometric compositional order, marked out by the strict classical architecture of the background which structures the pictorial space into horizontal and vertical bands. The protagonists - the Virgin, the Infant Christ, the elderly Simeon stretching out his arms to the Child, the prophetess Anna with her prophecy inscribed on the marble tablet, and Joseph on the left - are arranged in an orderly way in the foreground with stately gestures and poses.

Lodovico (or Lodovico) Carracci (April 1555 – November 1619) was an Italian, early-Baroque painter, etcher, and printmaker born in Bologna. Along with his cousins Annibale and Agostino Carracci, Ludovico in 1585 was a founder and director (caposindaco) of the so-called Eclectic Academy of painting (also called the Accademia degli Incamminati), which in reality was a studio with apprenticed assistants. The Carracci are credited with reinvigorating Italian art, specially fresco art, which was subsumed with formalistic Mannerism. Lodovico's own sensitivity derived from his deep knowledge of Venetian painting. His style was composed of delicate gestures, bashful looks, and a good deal of narrative drama. Especially in his medium to small pictures this readily became lyrical poetry.

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