Gaspare Bazzano (1565-1630)
The Circumcision

Oil on canvas, 70.8 x 61.0 in. (180 x 155 cm.)
Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, Palermo
Provenance: Church of St. Francis de Paul, Palermo

The man with the knife wears a prayer shawl, and the woman behind his left shoulder holds a candle. These are both features of the medieval Jewish circumcision rite. The Virgin Mary stands behind the man, and St. Joseph stands behind her. Both have halos, but surprisingly the child does not. At Mary's right another woman stands with a basket of doves, a detail taken from The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, chapter 15.

The image interprets the historical event of Jesus' circumcision as a precursor of the timeless sacrifice of Christ that is memorialized in the Mass. The figure holding the baby straddles history by wearing both a bishop's cope and a version of the High Priest's "holy crown" (Exodus 29:6). The platter on which the baby stands resembles the paten on which the Christian priest places the consecrated host. The altar is just like the ones used in the side chapels of 16th-century cathedrals, even to the ritual book on a stand at the right side. And the ewer that the youth on the right holds at the ready suggests those used in the Mass for the ritual cleansing of the priest's hands.

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about the Circumcision.

Photographed at the museum by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.