By Anne Leader

November 21 is the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin. Though not in the Bible, several apocryphal texts tell how when Mary was three, her parents Joachim and Anna took her to the Temple for her customary education. First celebrated in the Eastern church, the feast became popular in the west in the fourteenth century. Pope Sixtus IV included it in the Roman breviary, but it was removed after the Council of Trent by Pius V. It was reintroduced in 1585 by Sixtus V, and it remains on the calendar today. Quite popular in Renaissance painting, artists show the Virgin in a variety of attitudes from humble to self-confident and precocious.

Giotto, Presentation of the Virgin, fresco, 1304-6, Padua, Arena Chapel.

Andrea di Bartolo, The Presentation of the Virgin, tempera on panel, c. 1400, Washington, National Gallery of Art, Samuel H. Kress Collection,1939.1.41.

Benedetto Diana, The Presentation and Marriage of the Virgin, and the Annunciation, oil on panel, 1520/1525. Washington, National Gallery of Art, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1961.9.70.

Vittore Carpaccio, The Presentation of the Virgin, oil on canvas, 1504-08, Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera.

Titian, Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (detail), oil on canvas, 1534-38, Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia.

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