A few days after the birth of the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph went to the temple to have their child admitted to the community. The Bible records how the devout Simeon, old and blind, was promised not to die until he saw the Messiah. On the day that Mary and Joseph went to the temple with their child, Simeon was also there. In the child he immediately recognized the Messiah.
The baby Jesus rests in the arms of Simeon, who speaks to Mary. This is when Simeon has recognized the Messiah in the baby and shares his feelings with the mother. This supernatural and dramatic moment is depicted here as an almost domestic scene. The small group of people around Simeon does not give the impression of being present at a great moment. This also becomes clear in identifying the older woman to the left of the scene as the prophetess Anna. She is embraced by an angel who points out the central event to her. The apparent everydayness is thus nullified.
In a masterful move, Rembrandt left the left half of the image almost completely blank. The contours of the architecture are only depicted with thin lines. The focus here is on a girl in the foreground, dressed in rags. Her gaze does not rest on the miraculous event that takes place almost under her nose, but on the beggar walking out of the picture on the left. His leg with crutch is just visible.
Rembrandt was often working on the presentation in the temple. A year after the completion of this etching, he made a small painting (Mauritshuis, The Hague) with the same subject, but in a much more dramatic and stage setting. Also later in his life Rembrandt would portray the subject several times.
Etching, 100 x 78 mm, PK-P-103.158, gift from N.C. the Gijselaar.