Presentation in the Temple
39.6 cm x 28 cm (15 9/16 in. x 11 in.)
Pietro Novelli, called Monrealese
(1603 - 1647)
Medium and Support:
Pen and brown ink with brush and brown wash over graphite on cream antique laid
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Once believed an early and rare pen study by Bernardo Strozzi, this drawing has since been recognized as the work of Monrealese, the most distinguished native artist in early 17th-century Sicily. Characteristic of his few drawings are the compression of space into curvilinear pattern, dissolve of form into shimmering atmosphere, and the constant embroidery of contour. The shapes of the principal figures and the variegation of light across them assume the example of Van Dyck, whose Madonna of the Rosary arrived in Palermo in 1624, while there is no hint of the greater naturalism that would follow trips to Naples and Rome in 1630-33. The iconography too must be correctly identified: always thought curi-ous and described generically as a Vision of the Trinity, it in fact a strict rendering of the Presentation (Luke 2:25) -- the Child standing upon the altar, the priest Simeon (not Joseph) inspired by the Holy Spirit to recognize His divinity -- but according to the archaic Byzantine conventions that still swayed the Sicilian imagination.