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The scene takes place in the Jerusalem Temple. The Prophet Simeon is shown standing on the right-side of the panel receiving the Christ-child from the arms of the Virgin, who stands opposite St Simeon. Behind Mary we see St Anna the Prophetess and St Joseph. Beneath the infant Christ is a depiction of the altar (or throne), creating a symbolic link between the infant body of Jesus and the Eucharist, which is consecrated in Orthodox liturgy upon the altar.
The event from the early life is Christ is based on the biblical narrative recorded in the Gospel of Luke:
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (2:25-32)
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple is one of the ‘great feasts’ of the Orthodox liturgical calendar (February 14th). The feast originates from ancient times and is known from at least the fourth century. Its iconographic representation was fully established by the ninth century. The prominence given to St Simeon stems from some ancient liturgical texts where he is described as ‘the greatest of the prophets: more even than Moses...“he who has seen God”'. For this reason he is known in Old Slavonic as Bogoprimyets, the ‘God-Receiver’.
The style of the current version suggests that it was painted in Rostov in the 17th century. This is primarily indicated by the simple style of the faces and their soft expressions with currant-like dots representing eyes, which are characteristic of Rostov icon painting in this period. If we compare a detail of our icon with fig. a. an icon from Rostov of the Birth of the Virgin and the Women at the Tomb (fig's a & b), we find an interesting echo of form, faces, colour, and expression. The use of silver and the floral patterns are also almost exactly the same (see details below).
There are also interesting similarities with another Rostov icon of the Mandylion and Saints (fig. c).