Today, December 8, is a public holiday in Italy to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Contrary to popular belief, the Immaculate Conception is not when Mary conceived Jesus but when she herself was conceived, without original sin, by her parents, Anna and Joachim.

To celebrate, I’ve chosen this painting by Jacopo Robusti, aka Tintoretto, which is in the church of San Cristofaro, aka the Madonna dell’Orto, in Venice. This shows an episode a bit later in the life of the Virgin Mary, in which, as a three-year-old girl, she was presented to God in the temple in Jerusalem. This was because her parents were thankful to have received a child after thinking that they couldn’t have any.

There’s an interesting theory in the book Jacomo Tintoretto e i suoi figli by Melania Mazzucco, that the model for Mary in the picture, could have been Tintoretto’s own daughter Marietta (little Mary), who was a renowned painter in her own right and often known as Tintoretta.