We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


The Presentation in the Temple

circa 1632-circa 1633


Sir Peter Paul Rubens


28 Jun 1577 – 30 May 1640

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Flanders Belgium
    circa 1632-circa 1633
    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on oak panel
    63.5 x 49.6 x 0.3 cm panel; 84.2 x 71.3 x 5.0 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Bridgestar Pty Ltd an investment company of the Late James Fairfax AC 2021. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
    South Building, ground level, Grand Courts
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Sir Peter Paul Rubens

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was the most versatile and influential Baroque artist of northern Europe in the 17th century. When he returned to Antwerp after eight years in Italy, Rubens was appointed court painter to the archduke and archduchess Albert and Isabella in Brussels, although he continued to work in Antwerp where he received commissions notably for the large triptychs of the 'Raising of the cross' and the 'Descent from the Cross', painted in 1610–11 and 1612–14 respectively (both now in Antwerp Cathedral).
    The huge triptych of the 'Descent from the Cross' has on the inner sides of the wings the subjects of the 'Visitation' and the 'Presentation in the Temple'. The Fairfax panel is a later adaptation by Rubens of the latter composition made to serve as a model for the engraver Paulus Pontius. The subject of the 'Presentation' is taken from the Gospel of Luke 2: 22 –32. Following the birth of Christ, the new-born Jesus had to be taken to Jerusalem to be presented by his parents at the temple and a sacrifice offered. The devout Simeon, to whom it had been revealed that he would not die before having set eyes on Christ, came to the temple and, taking the Child in his arms, spoke the words: ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou has prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the gentiles, and the Glory of thy people Israel’. In Rubens’s treatment of the subject, Simeon has already taken the Christ Child from the Virgin and raises his gaze heavenwards, clearly speaking or about to speak these words. Joseph kneels in the foreground holding the sacrifice specified in Luke’s gospel of ‘a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons’.
    The original altarpiece’s composition had to be adapted in the Fairfax panel to be suitable for engraving. This was achieved by reducing the height of the architecture and by reinventing the subsidiary figures. Another difference is that in the Fairfax panel the Virgin seems eager to receive the Child back from Simeon, whereas a similar gesture in the original painting seems to indicate that she has just offered the Child up. Rubens paid particularly close attention to the art of printmaking, and of this the Fairfax panel is ample evidence. While a drawing might seem the more obvious medium in which to transmit instructions to a printmaker, Rubens was concerned that the finished result should faithfully reflect the painterly qualities of the original, particularly the disposition of darks and lights through the whole composition.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 5 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 19 publications

  • Provenance

    Joseph-Hyacinthe-François de Paule de Rigaud, Comte de Vaudreuil, pre 26 Nov 1787, Paris/France, His (anon.) sale, Paris, 26 Nov 1787, lot 136, bought Le Brun, 755 livres/2100 fr (with 'The Visitation'). The buyer and price (in livres) are given in an anotated copy of the sale catalogue in the British Library.

    Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, 26 Nov 1787-pre 29 Apr 1793, Paris/France, Purchased at the (anon) sale of the Comte de Vaudreuil, Paris, 26 Nov 1787, lot 136, 755 livres (with 'The Visitation'). His sale, Paris, 11–23 and 27–30 Apr 1791, lot 264 (with 'The Visitation'), works not sold; Later sale 'Vincent Donjeux ou autres,' 29 Apr 1793, lot 445, 1280 livres (Jean Baptiste Pierre Le Brun mentioned in sale record).

    Vincent Donjeux, pre 29 Apr 1793, Paris/France

    Sinson, 29 Apr 1793-20 Dec 1814, Paris/France, Purchased at the 'Vincent Donjeux ou autres' sale, 29 Apr 1793, lot 445, no 264, 1280 livres (Jean Baptiste Pierre Lebrun mentioned in sale record) with 'The Visitation.' Sinson's sale 24 Dec 1814 with 'The Visitation' (buyer unknown).

    J L Barbier, pre 19 Oct 1818, Paris/France, his posthumous (?) sale, Paris, 19–20 Oct 1818 (this lot 19 Oct), no 87 (‘as school of Rubens’), sold for 134 frs

    Balachoff, post Dec 1818, Mention of 'Collection Balachoff' in the 1937 Brussels exhibition catalogue.

    Mr Condé, pre 1927, Biarge/Charente/France, See 1927 Antwerp exhibition catalogue.

    Madame Condé, pre 1937, Biarge/Charente/France, See 1937 Brussels exhibition catalogue.

    Verner Amell Ltd, post 1937, London/England, From whom purchased by Peter Jay Sharp.

    Peter Jay Sharp, pre 13 Jan 1964, New York/United States of America, His sale, Sotheby's, New York, 13 Jan 1964, lot 66, bought Fairfax.

    James Oswald Fairfax AC, 13 Jan 1964-11 Jan 2017, Bowral/New South Wales/Australia, Purchased at The Estate of Peter Jay Sharp sale, Sotheby's, New York, 13 Jan 1964, lot 66.

    Bridgestar Pty Ltd, 11 Jan 2017-16 Jun 2021, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, The Estate of James O Fairfax. Gift to the Art Gallery of NSW, 16 June 2021.

Other works by Sir Peter Paul Rubens