National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple Paolo di Giovanni Fei (painter)
Sienese, c. 1335/1345 - 1411
The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, 1398-1399
tempera on wood transferred to hardboard
painted surface: 146.1 × 140.3 cm (57 1/2 × 55 1/4 in.) overall: 147.2 × 140.3 cm (57 15/16 × 55 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Painting in Siena in the 14th and Early 15th Centuries
Object 2 of 10

Anne and Joachim were elderly and almost without hope of having children; when an angel announced that Anne would conceive, she promised the child to God's service. Here, the young Virgin, aged four or five, takes leave of her family to enter the temple. Devotion to the Virgin was especially strong in Siena, where she was patron saint. This panel was probably part of a large altarpiece commissioned for the city's cathedral, where it would have been seen near Duccio’s own altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin in Majesty, the Maestà.

Paolo, following in the tradition of Duccio and Simone Martini, used a brilliant palette—note the mosaiclike impression of his strong colors, which range from cool blues to salmony pinks and glassy greens. At the same time, Paolo has infused his scene with an appealing naturalness—legacy from another Sienese master, Pietro Lorenzetti. Paolo concentrates not on the awe-inspiring majesty of the Virgin, but on the human aspects of her story. The young Virgin pauses on the dais. Her expression as she turns a final time toward her parents is tender and rueful—the genuine response of a child.

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