Icon: Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple I D-8
- Veneto-Cretan, first half 17th century
- Tempera on panel, 37.6 x 46.2 cm
Bertini Collection, Livorno, Italy, 1960’s
Morsink Icon Gallery, Amsterdam
Against a gold ground, the scene of the Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple of Jerusalem unfolds. The title of the icon is written in Latin: PRESENTA[TIO] EIODIS (?) [VIRG]INIS. To the left, the elderly figure of the high priest Zachariah is standing on an elevated sanctuary, in front of an altar table sheltered by a high ciborium (baldachin) with a bright red curtain. The three-year-old Virgin, traditionally dressed in a tunic and a maphorion, stands on the entrance steps, her hands outstretched towards the high priest. Zacharias, dressed in a bright red mantle and wearing a typical head cap, bows and outstretches his hands to receive the Virgin. The holy parents, Joachim and Anna, stand behind her and are looking at the viewer, their heads slightly bowed. Behind, a closely packed group of Hebrew virgins, holding lighted white candles, is come out of a tall building, representing the entrance of the temple. The maidens turn their heads towards each other as if in silent conversation. In the upper left corner of the icon, the Virgin is depicted again, sitting at the top of a marble staircase. Raising her right hand in a gesture of conversation, she is looking up at the approaching angel, who is presenting her a piece of bread. A high wall is connecting the buildings to the left and to the right of which the last one has a bright red cloth draped on its rooftop.
The icon was possibly intended for an icon-stand or as the epistyle of an iconostasis. The two scenes shown in the icon derive from the narrative of the life of the Virgin, as described in the proto-evangelium of James, and their combination in one representation is a dominant feature in Byzantine art from the 11th century onwards (Drandaki 2002, p. 132). The composition follows the Byzantine iconographic model, as established in Cretan painting from the first half of the 15th century. The most famous example from this period is the Presentation icon by the painter Angelos Akotantos, now in the Byzantine Museum in Athens (Acheimastou-Potamianou 1998, pp. 108, 109; cat. no. 29 / Vassilaki 2010, pp. 166. 167; cat.no. 32). Our icon, executed in a traditional, archaic style and showing no Western influences except for the unusual Latin inscription, can be dated in the first half of the 17th century.