The Circumcision, 1594
Latin poem by C. Schoneus
Engraving. 480 x 353 mm
Inventory number: E256
The Circumcision is the supreme achievement in the Dutch artist Henrick Goltzius’ output of prints prints. They constitute a series of altogether six motifs illustrating the life of the Virgin. Goltzius copied a number of older masterpieces. But he also created independent works of art such as The Circumcision. He was always ambitious regarding the quality of his art. From 1582 he had had his own publishing undertaking in which he printed and published his prints. And in the 1590s he had become known throughout Europe. His self-portrait is seen immediately behind the central circumcision scene, in which he is standing to the left of the column as though he were watching the event.
In keeping with the Jewish sacred scripture the Torah, Jesus was, according to the biblical account (Luke 2,21), circumcised a week after His birth. It was on this occasion He received the name of Jesus. During the visit to Mary, when the birth was announced, the angel used the name of Jesus. In the Catholic, Protestant and Anglican churches, circumcision was replaced by the sacrament of baptism. With the publication of a papal bull of 4 February 1442, Pope Eugene the Fourth (1383-1447) sought finally to abolish circumcision in the Christian Church.