Presentation in the Temple and Flight to Egypt1393-99
Tempera on wood, 167 x 125 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon
The picture shows the right wing of the Dijon Altarpiece.
The most distinctive aspect of the Dijon Altarpiece is the arrangement of the sacred architectural settings which occupy virtually all of two out of the four scenes. At the moment of the Annunciation, Mary is sitting in a small pavilion attached to a much larger and much grander building behind. The slender rib vaults, the two windows surmounted by clover-leaf tracery, and the rectangular paving mark the style as Gothic. But the relationship between the pavilion and the surrounding space is unusual, as is the way the room is opened out on two sides in order to afford an unimpeded view of the Virgin.
The same is true of the temple in the Presentation of Christ. The Holy Family, St Simeon and a servant girl, who carries a candle in her right hand and a basket with two doves in her left, all gather round the Christ Child. Again, the building in which they stand is open onto the world outside, as if the painter were trying to show us both interior and exterior simultaneously. This apparent contradiction is a convention which Broederlam has borrowed from the paintings of the Italian Trecento, where similar buildings are to be found in the works of Giotto and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, among others.