MASTER of Budapest
(active c. 1500 in Castile)

Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple

c. 1500
Wood, 158 x 91 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

According to an apocryphal life of Mary, her parents, Anna and Joachim, were not blessed with child for twenty years and when at last their daughter Miriam or Mary was born, they were so grateful to the Lord that they gave her into the care of the church and she became a virgin of the temple. These maidens were educated and received moral instruction from the priests, an arrangement which to some extent foreshadowed the orders of nuns in the Middle Ages. This painting by a Castilian artist - named after the place where his most important works may now be seen - records the moment when Mary takes leave of her parents and presents herself to the high priest. The artist's gift for depicting thoughts and feelings is clearly illustrated in the faces of Joachim and the high priest. His picture The Crucifixion, also in Budapest, suggests that the painter was an expressive artist, with a desire to convey the dramatic aspects of suffering; but this painting shows that he was also capable of lyricism and that even in his representation of saints he sought to express his knowledge of the human heart.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 22 minutes):
Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata, BWV 82