Giotto - The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, about 1320

Giotto (1266 or 1267 - 1337)

The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, about 1320

Tempera on panel, 45.2 x 43.6 cm (17 13/16 x 17 3/16 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

P30w9

Provenance

Entered collection of Prince Stanislas Poniatowski (1754–1833), Villa Poniatowski, Rome by 1822?–1833 (later Palazzo Poniatowski, Florence; as a set with three other panels attributed to Giotto (Adoration of the Magi, Pentacost, The Entombment)
Purchased by Nathaniel Phillip Simes, Strood Park, Horsham, Sussex at the Poniatowski sale from the art dealers Christie and Manson, London for £4.4.0 on 9 February 1839, lot 102. (as Giotto)
By descent to his son.
Purchased by Henry Willet, Arnold House, Brighton, East Sussex from the Simes Estate, through the art dealers Colnaghi & Co, London, by 1892.
Purchased by the art dealer and scholar Dr. Jean Paul Richter (1847–1937) from Henry Willet, 1894.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Jean Paul Richter for £1,500 on 8 March 1900 from Miss Toplady (a firm of art dealers established by Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946), brother-in-law of Bernard Berenson), London through the American art historian Bernard Berenson (1865–1959).

Marks

Inscribed in ink (verso left): 102
Printed in ink (verso center): 4144
Inscribed in pencil (verso): 4144

Bibliography

Giorgio Vasari. Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori, vol. 1 (Florence, 1568; Reprint, Florence, 1906), p. 395. (refers to “The Presentation of the Child in the Temple” as a work by Giotto; as part of a series brought from Sansepolcro to Arezzo and broken up, with some pieces later taken to Florence for the collection of Baccio Gondi)
Christie's. A Catalogue of the Gallery of Pictures of the Prince Poniatowski, Deceased, from the Palazzo Poniatowski, Florence (London, 8 February 1839), lot 102. (as Giotto, grouped with three other fragments of the same painting)
Royal Academy of Art. Exhibition of the Works by Old Masters... Exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Art, 1892), p. 39, no. 177. (as school of Giotto)
The New Gallery. Exhibition of Early Italian Art from 1300 to 1550. Exh. cat. (London: The New Gallery, 1893), p. 5, no. 24. (as Giotto)
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 24. (quoting Vasari)
Roger Fry in John La Farge and August F. Jaccaci eds. Noteworthy Paintings in American Private Collections, vol. 1 (New York, 1908), pp. 241-42. (as before the Arena Chapel frescoes)
Osvald Siren. "Trecento Pictures in American Collections-I." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 14, no. 68 (November 1908), pp. 125-26. (as Giotto)
Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. "The Fenway Court Giotto." American Journal of Archaeology 16 (1912), p. 102. (as Giotto, as a door panel)
Osvald Siren. Giotto and Some of His Followers, vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1917), pp. 79-82. (as Giotto, as possibly a door panel for a sacristy cupboard)
I.B. Supino. Giotto (Florence, 1920), pp. 270-71. (as Giottesque)
Raimond von Marle. Recherches sur l'iconographie de Giotto et de Duccio (Strasbourg, 1920), p. 9, no. 5. (as attributed to a pupil of Giotto)
Wilhelm Hausenstein. Giotto (Berlin, 1923), pp. 15, 198, 191. (as Giotto, but not important amongst the paintings ascribed to him)
Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. A History of Italian Painting (New York, 1923), p. 475. (as workshop of Giotto, as dating after 1330)
Georg Graf Vizthum and W.F. Volbach. Die Malerei und Plastik des Mittelalters in Italien (Potsdam, 1924), p. 265. (as workshop of Giotto)
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, vol. 3 (The Hague, 1924), pp. 186-88. (as assistant of Giotto, as contemporary to Magdalen chapel frescoes in lower church of San Francesco, Assisi)
Morris Carter. Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court (Boston, 1925; Reprint, Boston, 1972), p. 180.
Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. "Two Attributions to Giotto." Art Studies 3 (1925), p. 31. (as school of Giotto)
Curt H. Weigelt. Giotto: Des Meisters Gemälde (Berlin, 1925), pp. 242-43. (as pupil of Giotto, as part of a predella or panel from a sacristy chest)
Philip Hendy. "The Supposed 'Painter of Saint Stephen'-I, Paintings by Taddeo Gaddi." The Burlington Magazine 52 (June 1928), pp. 284, 290, 295.
Philip Hendy. "The Supposed 'Painter of Saint Stephen'-II, The Six Scenes from the Life of Christ by Giotto" The Burlington Magazine 53 (July 1928), pp. 16-19, pl. 2c. (as ascribed to Giotto)
Pietro Toesca. Florentine Painting of the Trecento. (Florence, 1929), p. 66, no. 16. (as attributed to a follower of Giotto)
Roger Fry. "Notes on the Italian Exhibition at Burlington House-I." The Burlington Magazine 56 (February 1930), p. 83. (as hesitantly attributed to a close follower of Giotto)
Roberto Longhi. "Progressi nella reintegrazione d'un polittico di Giotto." Dedalo 2 (1930), p. 290. (as Giotto, as belonging to one of his four polyptychs for the Church of Santa Croce, Florence)
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of the Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 168-172. (as Giotto)
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. (Oxford, 1932), p. 235 (as attributed to Giotto's workshop)
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America, vol. 1 (New York, 1933), unpaginated, pl. 25 (as Giotto)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 271, pl. 13. (as Giotto)
Emilio Cecchi. Giotto (Milan, 1937), pp. 125-26. (as an assistant of Giotto)
Carlo Gamba. "Osservazioni sull'arte di Giotto." Rivista d'arte 31 (1937), p. 57. (as Giotto with assistance of pupils)
Mostra Giottesca. Exh. cat. (Palazzo degli Uffizi: Bergamo, 1937), p. 42. (as attributed to Giotto)
Luigi Coletti. "La mostra giottesca." Bolletino d'arte 31 (August 1937), p. 274. (as painted under Giotto's direction)
Mario Salmi. "La mostra Giottesca." Emporium 86 (July 1937, pp. 358-60. (as workshop of Giotto, as a small altarpiece of two rows for a Franciscan church, perhaps in northern Italy)
Wilhelm Suida. "Die Giotto-Ausstellung in Florenz." Pantheon 20 (July-December 1937), p. 350. (as workshop of Giotto)
Cesare Brandi. "Giotto (II)." Le arti 17 (December 1938-January 1939), pp. 125-26. (as follower of Giotto)
Tancred Borenius. "The New Giotto Panel." The Burlington Magazine 81 (November 1942), p. 277. (as workshop of Giotto)
Pittura italiana del duecento e trecento. Catalogo della mostra giottesca di Firenze in 1937. Exh. cat. (Galleria degli Uffizi: Florence, 1943), p. 339. (as workshop of Giotto)
Roberto Longhi. "Giudizio sul Duecento." Proporzioni 2 (1948), p. 51. (as Giotto)
Stuart Preston. "Presentation at the Temple" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 8. (as Giotto)
Morris Carter. "Mrs. Gardner & The Treasures of Fenway Court" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 60. (as Giotto)
Pietro Tosca. Il Trecento (Turin, 1951), p. 610. (as pupil of Giotto who collaborated at the Arena Chapel, Padua)
Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools (London, 1951), pp. 180-81. (as workshop of Giotto)
Millard Meiss. Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death (Princeton, 1951), p. 19, note 24. (as workshop of Giotto)
Roberto Longhi. "Presenza di Masaccio nel trittico della Neve." Paragone 3 (January 1952), p. 8. (as Giotto, as part of one of four altarpieces for the church of Santa Croce, Florence, probably that for the Peruzzi chapel)
R. Salvini. Tutta la pittura di Giotto (Milan, 1952), p. 50. (as workshop of Giotto)
Federico Zeri. "Due appunti su Giotto." Paragone 8 (January 1957), p. 78 (as attributed to Giotto)
Cesare Gnudi. Giotto (Milan, 1958), pp. 220, 222, and 248. (as ascribed to Giotto)
Martin Davies. National Gallery Catalogues, Earlier Italian Schools (London, 1961), pp. 230-32. (as ascribed to Giotto, as a sacristy door panel)
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School, vol. 1 (London, 1963), p. 82. (as assistants of Giotto)
Edi Baccheschi. The Complete Paintings of Giotto (New York, 1966), p. 116, no. 132. (as Giotto and assistants)
Robert Oertel. Die Frühzeit der italienischen Malerei (Stuttgart, 1966), pp. 98, 232, note 30. (as a talented assistant of Giotto)
Giovanni Previtali. Giotto e la sua bottega (Milan, 1967), pp. 112, 316, pl. 339. (as Giotto, as part of a Franciscan altar frontal)
Ferdinando Bologna. I pittori alla corte Angioina di Napoli, 1266-1414 (Rome, 1969), pp. 190-91, 229. (as Giotto, as part of an altarpiece for the church of San Francesco, Sansepolcro, following the suggestion of Vasari)
Paolo Venturoli. "Giotto." Storia dell'arte 1/2 (1969), p. 156 (as part of the predella for an altarpiece from a chapel in the church of Santa Croce, Florence)
Luisa Vertova. "I Tatti." Antichità viva 8 (November-December 1969), p. 73. (as designed by Giotto and painted by his assistants)
Federico Zeri, with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. (New York, 1971), pp. 13-16. (as Giotto, as a panel from a sacristy cupboard door or, more likely, from of an altarpiece)
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections (Cambridge, 1972), p. 87. (as attributed to Giotto)
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Boston, 1974), pp. 103-106.
Alte Pinakothek München: Katalog V, Italienische Malerei. (Munich, 1975), p. 52.
Everett Fahy. "Italian Paintings at Fenway Court" in James Thomas Herbert Baily (ed.). The Connoisseur: An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" (London, 1978), p. 29, pl. A. (as Giotto, as a panel from a sacristy cupboard door, tabernacle, or compartment of a dossal)
Alessandro Conti. "Un 'Crocifisso' nella bottega di Giotto." Prospettiva 20 (January 1980), pp. 48-49, 54. (as Giotto)
Luciano Bellosi. Giotto (Florence, 1981), p. 65 (as executed with participation of Giotto, as part of an altarpiece)
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 18-19. (as Giotto)
Keith Christiansen. "Fourteenth-Century Italian Altarpieces." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 40 (Summer 1982), pp. 50–56, ill. (as designed and mostly executed by Giotto, as part of an independent altarpiece or predella of an altarpiece, possibly for the Bardi chapel in the church of Santa Croce, Florence)
Elvio Lunghi in La pittura in Italia. Il Duecento e il Trecento, vol. 2 (Milan, 1986), p. 576. (as attributed to Giotto, as part of a Franciscan altarpiece)
Dillian Gordon. "The Conservatism of Umbrian Art: Raphael and Before." Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 134 (January 1986), pp. 112-13. (as designed and partly executed by Giotto, as part of an altarpiece for the church of San Francesco, Sansepolcro)
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 202, 204-206, 272, 288, 289, 296.
Sandrina Bandera Bistoletti. Giotto. Catalogo completo dei dipinti (Florence, 1989), pp. 119-20. (as part of an altarpiece for a Franciscan church, possibly for one of the chapels in the church of Santa Croce, Florence)
Dillian Gordon. "A Dossal by Giotto and his Workshop: Some Problems of Attribution, Provenance, and Patronage." Burlington Magazine 131 (August 1989), pp. 524–31, ill. (as designed and partially executed by Giotto but completed by his workshop, as part of an altarpiece, possibly for San Francesco, Rimini)
David Bomford et al. Art in the Making: Italian Painting Before 1400. Exh. cat. (National Gallery: London, 1989), pp. 64, 66-71. (as designed and partially executed by Giotto, as part of an altarpiece)
Dillian Gordon in Jill Dunkerton et al. Giotto to Durer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery (New Haven, 1991), p. 214, ill. (as ascribed to Giotto, as part of an altarpiece)
Alberto Busignani. Giotto (Florence, 1993), pp. 206, 307, no. 118. (as part of an altarpiece for the church of Santa Croce, Florence)
Francesca Flores d'Arcais. Giotto (New York, 1995), pp. 212, 215, 218. (as workshop of Giotto)
Julian Gardner. "Panel Paintings Attributed to Giotto in American Collections." Center 19 (1999), p. 74. (as securely attributed to Giotto)
Miklos Boskovits in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 55 (2000), p. 416. (as Giotto)
Angelo Tartuferi. Giotto. Guida alla mostra. Itinerario fiorentino. Exh. cat. (Galleria dell'Accademia: Florence, 2000), p. 74. (as attributed to Giotto)
Miklos Boskovits and Giorgio Bonsanti. Giotto. Bilancio critico di sessant'anni di studi e ricerche. Exh. cat (Galleria dell'Accademia: Florence, 2000), pp. 91, 174-77, no. 23. (as Giotto, as for the Franciscans, possibly for the church of San Francesco, Sansepolcro)
Julian Gardner. "Giotto in America (and Elsewhere)." Italian Panel Painting of the Duecento and Trecento (Washington, D.C., 2002), p. 161. (as Giotto)
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 38-39, ill. (as Giotto)
Angelo Tartuferi. Giotto (Florence, 2007), pp. 129-30, 132. (as Giotto, as either from the church of San Francesco, Sansepolcro or part of one of four altarpiece by the painter for Santa Croce)
Rachel Billinge and Dillian Gordon. "The Use of Gilded Tin in Giotto's 'Pentecost'." National Gallery Technical Bulletin 29 (2008), pp. 76. (as part of a dossal)
Dillian Gordon. The Italian Paintings Before 1400. (London, 2011), pp. 233-39, ill. (as Giotto and workshop, as part of a dossal)
Eve Borsook in Christine Sciacca, (ed.). Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1330–1350. Exh. cat. (J. Paul Getty Museum: Los Angeles, 2012), pp. 17-18, 23, note 52. (as Giotto and his workshop, as part of an altarpiece, possibly from a church in Rimini)
Victor M. Schmidt in Christine Sciacca, (ed.). Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1330–1350. Exh. cat. (J. Paul Getty Museum: Los Angeles, 2012), pp. 90-91, note 25. (as workshop of Giotto, as a dossal)
Angelo Tartuferi in Christine Sciacca, (ed.). Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1330–1350. Exh. cat. (J. Paul Getty Museum: Los Angeles, 2012), pp. 170, 172-73, ill. (as Giotto, as part of an altarpiece for the church of San Francesco, Sansepolcro)
Donal Cooper in Dominique Thiébaut, (ed.). Giotto e compagni. Exh. cat. (Musée du Louvre: Paris, 2013), pp. 43, 47, note 67. (as a dossal, possibly for a Franciscan church in Umbria or the Marches)
Andrea De Marchi in Dominique Thiébaut, (ed.). Giotto e compagni. Exh. cat. (Musée du Louvre: Paris, 2013), p. 55, ill. (as not a predella)
Carl Brandon Strehlke and Machtelt Brüggen Israëls. The Bernard and Mary Berenson Collection of European Paintings at Villa I Tatti (Milan, 2015), pp. 30, 44, 322-25, 327, fig. 44.1B, no. 44. (as Giotto and his workship, about 1320; as probably a dossal commissioned by an ecclesiastic for a Franciscan church)
Joseph Connors. "The Berenson Collection: A Guide." I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance (Fall 2016), pp. 238-40, fig. 1.
Cornelia Syre in Andreas Schumacher (ed.) et. al. Florentiner Malerei - Alte Pinakothek Die Gemälde des 14. Bis. 16 Jahrhunderts (Munich, 2017), pp. 123-24, no. 1.2.
Christina Nielsen (ed.). Sargent on Location: Gardner's First Artist-in-Residence. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2018), p. 15, ill. p. 18 (fig. 6).
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry and Italian Art (London: Ad Ilissum and The Burlington Magazine, 2019), cat. no. 1.i.a, pp. 154-55, fig. 2.1.


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Commentary

At first glance the small painting of The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple looks like a self-contained object. It has a balanced composition: two pairs of standing figures flank a dainty ciborium that symbolizes the Temple of Jerusalem. Following the gospel of Luke, the artist has illustrated the dramatic moment when Simeon and the prophetess Anna recognize the Christ Child as the savior.

Ever since the early nineteenth century, the Presentation has been known to be one of a series of seven paintings of the life of Christ (the others are in Munich, London, and New York). Although some scholars have questioned the traditional attribution of the series to Giotto, all the scenes are devised with such imagination and executed with such depth of feeling that only he could have painted them. There is nothing stereotyped about the compositions: each action is expressive, each face is individual. Thus, in the Presentation, the child struggles to get back in his mother’s arms. None of Giotto’s followers made such telling observations of human behavior.

Source: Everett Fahy (1978), "The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 39.