Inventory number
Veronese, Paolo
Christ among the Doctors in the Temple
Ca. 1560
236 cm x 430 cm
On display
Colección Real (Real Alcázar, Madrid, salón de los espejos-cuartos principales, 1700, nº 13; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, pinturas recogidas de las Casas Arzobispales, 1747, nº 839; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, pieza de dosel, 1794, s. n.; Palacio Real, Madrid, pieza de damas, 1814-1818, s.n.).

This work illustrates the final passage of Christ's childhood (Luke 2, 41-50) when, at the age of 12, he was taken to Jerusalem by his parents to celebrate Passover. Mary and Joseph lost their son, and later found him in the Temple, arguing with the doctors. Christ's theological superiority is emphasized by his placement towards the top of the composition's axis. The doctors look on as he enumerates his arguments on his fingers. Outstanding among the onlookers is a bearded old man who is undoubtedly the person who commissioned this painting. He wears the habit of a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher and holds a pilgrim's staff, which leads us to suppose that he may have commissioned this painting to commemorate a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands.

A character in the foreground carries a book with the number MCXLVIII (1548), which has generated some argument among specialists. Many of them consider the mastery shown by the painter in this work incompatible with such an early date if, indeed, the number is supposed to indicate the painting's date. It has also been pointed out that the architectural background of this work is derived from engravings by Vitruvius published in 1556.

In 1648, this work was at the Casa Contarini in Padua. It is listed at Madrid's Alcázar Palace in 1686 and may have been acquired by Velázquez during his second trip to Italy (1649-1651).

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