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A scene in a temple in which an elderly man holds an infant as other robed figures look on

On an altar an elderly man in ornate gold robes stands, cradling an infant in his arms. Beside him stand a woman in blue and green robes and a bearded man in a brown cloak. At lower right, a young woman kneels, holding a small cage with two doves in it. In the foreground at left a small tray holds burning coals that give off wispy smoke. A white cloud rises above the scene, from which appear the head and outstretched hands of a robed man with a white beard. He looks down as a gold halo shines around his head and a white dove flaps its wings in front of him.

Gallery Text

This composition formed part of Giaquinto’s program of ten altarpieces designed for the sacristy of the church of San Luigi di Palazzo in Naples. Here the Neapolitan artist portrays the fulfillment of the Virgin’s Purification, an event taken from the Gospel of Saint Luke in which Mary presents the Christ child to the Lord after forty days of ritual “purifying.” Like other works from the series, this painting stresses the Virgin’s faith and humility in carrying out this obligation for new mothers, in spite of her divine purity, which made such a ritual unnecessary. Giaquinto focuses the narrative by casting a softened light on the central scene, with the Virgin balanced to her right by the priest Saint Simeon, and to her left by a kneeling maid offering two turtledoves.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Corrado Giaquinto, Italian (Molfetta 1703 - 1765 Naples)
The Presentation in the Temple
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Purification of the Virgin
Work Type
c. 1764-1765
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Campania, Naples
Italian, Neapolitan
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
287 x 181 cm (113 x 71 1/4 in.)
framed: 303.2 x 195.9 x 7.6 cm (119 3/8 x 77 1/8 x 3 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
San Luigi de Palazzo, Naples, until c. 1815 (?). William Noel-Hill, 3rd Lord Berwick (1773-1842), purchased while Ambassador to Sardinia (1808-24) or while Ambassador to Naples (1824-33), and brought back to England. Church of the Advent, Cambridge, MA, sold; to [Edward F. Cloran, Boston], sold (as by F. Solimena); to Mrs. Ralph Pulitzer, Boston, July 26, 1957, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1958.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mrs. Ralph Pulitzer
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Giuseppe Sigismondo, Descrizione della città di Napoli e suoi borghi, Presso I Fratelli Terres (Naples, 1788), p. 332
  • Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 85
  • Civiltà del '700 a Napoli, 1734-1799, Centro Di (Naples, 1979), pp. 300-302, cat. no. 163c, repr. p. 301
  • Irene Cioffi and Prof. Nicola Spinosa, The Golden Age of Naples: Art and Civilization Under the Bourbons, 1734-1805, exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts and The Art Institute of Chicago (Detroit, 1981), pp. 107-116, cat. no. 25c., repr. 114
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 59, color plate; pp. 109, 358, repr. b/w cat. no. 777
  • R. Ward Bissell and Andrea Derstine, Masters of Italian Baroque Painting, Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI, 2005), pp. 94, 97, under no. 30, repr. as fig. 3

Exhibition History

  • The Golden Age of Naples: Art and Civilization Under the Bourbons, 1734-1805, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 08/10/1981 - 11/01/1981; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 12/21/1981 - 03/08/1982
  • Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 10/24/2008 - 10/03/2009
  • 32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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