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Lorenzetti, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, 1342, tempera on panel, 257 x 168 cm (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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Video transcript

DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: We're in the Uffizi in Florence, and we're looking at Ambrogio Lorenzetti's "Presentation in the Temple." Now, Ambrogio Lorenzetti was one of two brothers. The other was Pietro Lorenzetti. And they were both students of the great early Siennese master, Duccio. This is one of Ambrogio Lorenzetti's most important paintings. And it tells the story early in the New Testament narrative of Christ being brought to the temple to be circumcised. This is the moment when Simeon is presenting Christ to the temple and Anna, the seer, is recognizing Christ as the Redeemer and points him out. What I find so interesting is that, whereas Christ is so often represented as all-knowing even as an infant, here, he really looks like an infant. DR. BETH HARRIS: He is, and he's putting his fingers in his mouth. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: It's hard to miss the beautiful emphasis on architecture. And this is something that Ambrogio often emphasizes. Look at the Gothic characteristics of this church. This panel was originally intended for the Duomo in Sienna. And so it would itself have been this great Gothic environment. But look at the way in which we look back towards the apse, through this nave. There's all this fabulous emphasis on these vaguely Corinthian columns and lots of paint on the ceiling. For instance, we can see a Christ in the mandorla with angels. We can see ribbed vaults, which actually have painted gold stars against a blue ground, very much like we would expect to see in a 14th century church. DR. BETH HARRIS: And we have an illusion of space. If we look down at the floor, we see diagonal lines that appear to recede into space, although this is not correct use of linear perspective. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: It's not. But it is an attempt to create a sense of recession. Just look at the capitals and the way they allow our eye to move back slowly but deliberately into space as one space opens up into another. And there is mystery and drama. And what's so interesting is that we see this wonderful transhistorical representation of Christ, this ancient figure, in a modern Gothic environment, wonderfully aligning the past and the present. DR. BETH HARRIS: So in some way, that would have made a Siennese person in the 1300s really be able to relate to what was going on here. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: I think that that's right, making this ancient scene immediate.