January 07, 2016
Communications and Marketing
Alva de Mars Megan Chapel Art Center
Saint Anselm College
100 Saint Anselm Drive
Manchester, NH 03102
The Chapel Art Center is very pleased to announce a recent addition to its permanent collection. This etching by the Dutch master Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn depicts a familiar scene from the life of Christ as described in the Gospel of Luke, in which Mary and Joseph present the infant Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth. Dated to circa 1630, The Presentation in the Temple with the Angel is one of Rembrandt's earliest etchings, representing a very significant addition to the Chapel Art Center's collection of Old Master prints.
In the Catholic Liturgical Calendar Christ's presentation in the temple is observed as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which falls on February 2nd, forty days after Christmas. In recognition of this thematic resonance, The Presentation in the Temple, was featured on Saint Anselm College President Dr. Steven DiSalvo's annual Christmas card for 2015.
Rembrandt's etching depicts a poignant moment drawn from two episodes described in the Gospel of Luke. In one instance an elderly holy man named Simeon, who had a revelation from the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, was directed by the Holy Spirit to visit the temple. There he intercepted Christ's parents, took the child in his arms and offered up a song of praise to the Lord, stating that he could now depart in peace because "mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Simeon's prayer would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Song of Simeon:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel."
From the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 2, verses 29-32
In the second instance, the Gospel of Luke describes an elderly woman named Anna who never left the temple, remaining every day to pray and fast. At the moment of Simeon's revelation, Anna approached Mary and Joseph, giving thanks to God and speaking to everyone present about Jesus's role in the redemption of Israel (Luke 2: 36-38).
This etched Presentation is an intensely detailed miniature composition, measuring only four inches from top to bottom. The aged Simeon is depicted cradling the Christ child in the center-right with Mary and Joseph kneeling on either side, their backs to the viewer. Our eyes are drawn to Simeon and the infant Christ by the pointed finger of a winged angel, who appears over the shoulder of the standing prophetess Anna.
Several lively details add visual interest to the composition. The shadowy passage in the upper right corner hints at the vast temple's cavernous size. At the top of a flight of stairs the high priest is visible, surrounded by kneeling worshippers. A young girl standing to the left of the main group appears to gaze directly at the viewer, or perhaps her eyes are fixed on a beggar leaning on a cane (or possibly a wooden leg) in the left foreground.
As 2016 begins and we reflect on the events and achievements of 2015, the Chapel Art Center wishes to express thanks to its supporters, friends, and community, especially the community of college alumni to whom this acquisition is dedicated.
Rembrandt H. van Rijn (1606-1669), The Presentation in the Temple with the Angel, ca. 1630
Etching on laid paper. 10.3 x 7.8 cm (4 x 3 inches)
The MacDonald Collection, Alva de Mars Megan Chapel Art Center
Purchase, Hugh J. MacIsaac Art Acquisition Fund, 2015