In the late 1490s, impressed by the sermons of the Dominican friar Girolamo
Savonarola (1452–1498), Baccio della Porta, who preached against the dissolute life of nobility and clergy, refused to paint secular themes. Having entered the Dominican monastery of San Marco in Florence in 1500, he worked there under the name Fra Bartolommeo. In 1505 he became head of the order’s flourishing workshop of painters. On a visit to Rome in 1513, he saw the innovative achievements of Michelangelo and Raphael. His monumental altarpieces combined these ideas with local traditions, bringing the High Renaissance in Florence to its logical conclusion. Like his other work, this one, which Fra Bartolommeo painted for the church of his own monastery, combines symmetrical structure, monumental figures, graphic clarity alongside fluent painterly aspects, solemn gravity and quiet gestures. The temple interior is depicted in the central perspective typical of the Florentine manner, which creates a formal setting for the scene, viewed slightly from below. In his arms the elderly Simeon is holding the Christ Child, who has been brought to the temple by his parents. He recognises in Him the Messiah and turns towards Mary: “[…] Behold, this [child] is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thought of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34–35.)

© Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010


  • Title: The Scene of Christ in the Temple
  • Creator: Fra Bartolommeo
  • Creator Lifespan: 1472/1517
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Florence
  • Creator Birth Place: Florence
  • Date Created: 1516
  • Provenance: acquired in 1792 in an exchange between Florence and Vienna
  • Physical Dimensions: w1590 x h1550 cm
  • Inventory Number: GG 207
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/sammlungen/gemaeldegalerie/

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