Christ Among the Doctors


Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), Christ Among the Doctors, from the Life of the Virgin, woodcut, c. 1503. References: Bartsch 91, Hollstein 203. Watermark: High Crown (Meder watermark number 20). A proof before the 1511 Latin Text. In good condition overall apart from thin spots on verso, 2 pinholes bottom right, loss (repaired) upper left corner, small abrasion above head of man lower right, trimmed to the platemark, archival mounting.

A brilliant Meder a impression.

Provenance: ex Collection G. Von Rath (Lugt 2772).

Meder a impressions of Christ Among the Doctors are characterized by clear strong printing, a gap in the upper left border line, and a 75 mm. break bottom center under the feet of the standing figure. The High Crown watermark (as here) or the Bull’s Head watermark are found in these early impressions.

The scene is based on Luke 2:42-50. Christ, only 12, had stayed in the Temple in Jerusalem after his parents had left “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” But after awhile, his parents came back to find him.

Here, Mary has just entered the temple (at the left, followed by Joseph), not yet realizing that her search for the young Jesus – who is seated on the stage in back possibly reading from the scroll – has ended. Durer creates a fascinating composition, with the immediate discussion between Christ and the doctors taking place in the far background, contrasting with the large figures in the foreground who seem to be expressing astonishment among themselves at the talent of the young scholar.