Vincenzo Catenza, The Circumcision

16th century
Church of Santa Maria Formosa, Venice, Italy

As in most Circumcision images of this period the ritual is performed on an altar-like table in order to remind the beholder of the sacrifice of the Mass. On the same principle it is traditional to portray the circumciser as a high priest or some sort of Temple official, although in fact boys of Jesus' time were circumcised at home by the mother or father. Similarly, the wooden railing between the table and the women may correspond to the altar screen in a contemporary church.

Mary reaches past the railing to hold the baby. The unidentified young woman at her side is a common feature in images of the Circumcision and the Fresentation in the Temple. Presumably the man in back is St. Joseph.

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Read more about images of the Circumcision and the Presentation in the Temple.

Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.