Today is the Feast Day of the Purification. Luke 2:22-24 conflates the Purification of the Virgin with the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. According to Mosaic law, the presentation of the first-born son at the temple takes place 30 days after birth, while the purification ceremony for the new mother occurs on the fortieth day. The gospel of Luke suggests that these events happened in opposite order for Mary and Jesus. According to Leviticus 12, turtledoves were to be offered for the purification of the mother. Exodus 13:13b and Numbers 18:16 decreed that the first-born son was to be exchanged for five silver coins. Italian artists followed Luke’s account and showed the presentation of turtledoves alongside the baby Jesus.

Jacopo Torriti, Apse mosaic, window level: 4. Presentation in the Temple, 1296 (completed), mosaic, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, Gradual from Santa Maria degli Angeli (Folio 32v), c. 1370, tempera and gold on parchment, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Gentile da Fabriano, Presentation of Christ in the Temple, 1423, tempera on wood, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Fra Angelico, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Cell 10), 1440-42, fresco, Convento di San Marco, Florence

Raphael, The Presentation in the Temple (Oddi altar, predella), 1502-03, oil on canvas, Pinacoteca, Vatican

Tintoretto, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, 1550-55, oil on canvas, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

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