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The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Morales, Luis de
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Morales, Luis de

Badajoz (Spain), 1510 - Alcántara? (Spain), 1586

See author's file

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Ca. 1562. Oil on panel.
Not on display

In this picture in the Prado, Morales combines elements that allude to both moments, -the Presentation in the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin-, although it might appear at first that he inclines towards the Purification, since only the group formed by the Holy Family and the priest Simeon, together with the two young pigeons carried by the woman in the foreground, are taken from the Gospel text which narrates the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke, 2, 22-39). However, it is not the Extremaduran painter alone who is to be charged with such imprecision, for it was habitual in scenes of this type during the period when the picture was painted. The practice of the purification of women after childbirth has its origin in the Mosaic law (Leviticus, 12, 1-8), and preserves echoes of the Roman festival of the Lupercaliae, in which light indisputably played a leading role, as it does in our picture. Nor should it be forgotten that light was imbued with a special symbolism in agricultural cults as an announcement of the coming end of winter. These pagan and Judaic origins meant that the purification ceremony was, to say the least, controversial in the Christian context, even though it was an enormously popular rite in the early modern era, and was officially regulated by the Catholic Church half a century after this painting was completed.

The picture contains numerous evocations of the ritual of the Purification Mass. This was a religious and festive celebration attended by the mother, after the completion of her quarantine, with her new-born child, in the company of the women who had assisted in the birth from the days leading up to the delivery until that moment. The ritual marked the return of the woman to her everyday life. The Mass was normally dedicated to the Purification of the Virgin, even if the day did not coincide with that feast. Those present with the mother would carry candles and offerings, though these were no longer the biblical lamb or young pigeons, but ranged instead from the pain-benit of France to the chrisom cloth (a white cloth swathed around the infant) of England or its equivalent in money.

It is these women, present at the purification ceremony but absent from the Gospel narrative, who are alluded to by those we see in our picture. Nor does the text in St Luke make any mention of the predominance of white in fabrics and vestments as seen in the painting, and far less is there any reference to the priest’s enfolding the Christ Child in a white cloth in order to lift him. Why should he do so if the Messiah needed no purification, and there was therefore no risk of contamination for the Lord’s minister? The candles we see in Morales’s work featured prominently both in the ritual for this type of ceremony and in the feast of the Purification of the Virgin, which was in fact commonly known among worshippers as Candlemas. The Roman Ritual gives the words to be used in the procession held that day, which began with the blessing of the candles previously distributed among the congregation, and continued with the procession itself, in which Mary was named Bearer of the New Light. The picture shows the final moment of a Purification Mass, when the procession is arriving at the altar. In other works of a similar nature, Morales showed the very moment of the offering, with the woman in white kneeling before the altar, as in the altarpiece of San Martín in Plasencia, or else he depicted a third moment with the offering already laid upon the altar top (Eichenzell, Kulturstiftung des Hauses Hessen, Museum Schloss Fasanerie, Inv. Nr. FAS B 349).

Nevertheless, the prominent inclusion of the Christ Child on the altar, where he is being raised by Simeon in the presence of the Holy Family (the only figure missing is the aged widow, the prophetess Anne, who is mentioned in St Luke’s Gospel and was included by Morales on all his other Purification-Presentation scenes), evokes the episode of the Presentation in the Temple. The lack of definition of this and all the other Purification-Presentation scenes by Morales is fully coherent with the religious context in which they were painted, itself characterised by an indeterminate attitude to a rite in which religiosity, folk and pagan traditions and Judaeo-Christian precept converged with no apparent difficulty for the common men and women contemporary with the artist (Text drawn from De Carlos Varona, M. C. in: The Divine Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2015, pp. 73-74).


Technical data

Inventory number
Morales, Luis de
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Ca. 1562
Height: 146.5 cm; Width: 116 cm
Royal Collection (Casita del Príncipe, c. 1795-1800).

Bibliography +

Inventario de las Pinturas del Museo Hecho a la Muerte del Rey, s.n., Madrid, 1834, pp. 9.

Loga, Valerian von, Die Malerei in Spanien: vom XIV. bis XVIII. Jahrhundert, G. Grote'sche verlagsBuchhandlung, Bernom, 1923, pp. 117,118/ lám.73.

Padilla, M., El divino Morales, pintor inédito, Arte Español. Revista Española de Arte, 7, 1924/25, pp. 139-152.

Ars hispaniae: historia universal del arte hispánico, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1947, pp. 243-245/ lám.252.

Rodríguez G. de Ceballos, Alfonso, El mundo espiritual del pintor Luis de Morales en el centenario de su muerte, Goya: Revista de arte, 196, 1955, pp. 194-203.

Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio, Luis de Morales, C.S.I.C.Inst.Diego Velazquez, Madrid, 1961, pp. 44.

Backsbacka, Ingjald, Luis de Morales, Helsingfords, Helsinki, 1962, pp. 152/ lám.16.

Gallotti Minola, M., Manieristi Spagnoli Nel Museo del Prado. Separata, Istituto Italiano D'Arti Grafiche, Bérgamo, 1964, pp. 55-57.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 433.

Palomino de Castro y Velasco, Acisclo Antonio 1653-1726, Vidas, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1986, pp. 56,57.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Quesada, Luis, Luz y Lumbre en la Pintura Española, Fundacion Sevillana de Electricidad, Sevilla, 1992, pp. 43/ lám.47.

Solís Rodriguez, Carmelo, Luis de Morales, Fundacion Caja de Badajoz, Badajoz, 1999, pp. 188,189.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 64.

Portús Pérez, Javier, La colección de pintura española en el Museo del Prado, Edilupa, Madrid, 2003, pp. 49.

Mateo Gómez, I., Flandes, Portugal y Toledo en la obra de Luis de Morales. Las Vírgenes gitanas o del sombrero, Archivo español de arte, 317, 2007, pp. 7-24.

Pancino, Claudia, La purificazione della puerpera: la storia confusa di un rito ai confini fra biologia e società. En: Nacimientos bajo control. El parto en las edades Moderna y Contemporánea, Trea, Gijón, 2014, pp. 51-52.

de Carlos, Mª Cruz, 'Luis de Morales. La Purificación de la Virgen o la Presentación al Templo' En:, El Divino Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 73-75 n.7.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 110.
Morales. / 110. La circuncision del Señor. / Representa al sacerdote anciano teniendo en sus brazos al divino Niño sobre el ara de la circuncision y á su lado la Virgen acompañada de hermosas doncellas que llevan con la ofrenda hachas encendidas. En el fondo se ve á San Jose (tabla). / Alto 5 pies, 3 pulg; ancho 4 pies, 2 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 849.
849.-(110-F.)-La presentacion del niño Dios en el templo.(San Lúc.,II.)-El anciano Simeon tiene en las manos al divino Infante; y con los dos santos esposos forman un grupo, junto á la mesa, las doncellas que vienen al templo trayendo la ofrenda y hachas encendidas.-Figuras de tamaño natural reducido. / Procede del Pal.nuevo de Madrid.-F.L./ Alto 1,46; ancho 1,16.-T.

Exhibitions +

El Divino Morales
16.06.2016 - 25.09.2016

El Divino Morales
09.02.2016 - 16.05.2016

El Divino Morales
06.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

The Divine Morales
01.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

Update date: 11-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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