The story goes that as a young child (around 3) Mary was presented to the Temple, where she would remain until age 12 to be educated. After this age, due to her menstruation she could not stay at the Temple as it was considered a defilement of the holy place. Thus, she was betrothed to Joseph and married soon after. A common tale involving Mary’s presentation is that she was placed on the bottom steps and climbed the entire flight of stairs on her own. I’m not sure why this was supposed to be a feat worthy of retelling–3-year-olds are hardly incapable of climbing stairs. Perhaps it was just a really long flight of stairs. More likely it was intended to demonstrate the little girl’s courage, as she clambered up the high steps to meet with the strange men waiting for her at the top.
Wikipedia: Francisco de Zurbarán
Wikipedia: Franz Joseph Spiegler
This next painting is the earliest visual representation of Mary’s presentation that I am aware of. If anyone knows of an earlier example, please contact me.
Giotto di Bondone: The Complete Works
Paolo Uccello: The Complete Works
Wikimedia Commons: Presentation of Virgin Mary