British Library, OR.MS.481

In the temple. Anna and Joachim present their three-year-old daughter to the Temple’s high priest, in the lower register of this illumination from an Ethiopian manuscript. The priest, according to the Infancy Gospel of James, immediately acknowledges Mary’s greatness: “The Lord God has exalted your name among all generations. In you the Lord will disclose his redemption to the people of Israel during the last days” (James 7:9). In the upper register, Mary, now ensconced in the Temple, is fed “like a dove, receiving her food from the hand of a heavenly messenger” (James 8:2). Mary, this scene suggests, is so pure she does not eat earthly food.

Though neither event is recorded in the New Testament, they nevertheless appear as illustrations in this gospel manuscript, which is a 17th-century replica, made for the emperor of Ethiopia, of a lavish 15th-century book.