Twelve year old Jesus in the Temple (Trial Proof)
By Albrecht Durer
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Reference: Bartsch 91, Meder/Hollstein 203, Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 181
Edition size: Life of the Virgin Series
Image size: 30.1 x 21 cm
Sheet size: 30.1 x 21 cm
1. A very ne and rare proof impression.
2. The subject of this woodcut refers to the time when Christ was twelve years old and
had been taken by his family from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. On their return, Mary and Joseph found out that Jesus had remained behind in Jerusalem. After three days of searching in Jerusalem, they found Christ in the temple and, with amazing knowledge, debating a group of rabbis and doctors. All of the above is described in Luke 2:41-52:
Now it was the practice of his parents to go to Jerusalem every year for the Passover festival; and when he was twelve, they made the pilgrimage as usual. When the festive season was over and they started for home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem His parents did not know of this; but thinking that he was with the party they journeyed with for a whole day, and only then did they begin looking for him among their friends and relations. As they could not nd him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days, they found him sitting in the temple surrounded by teachers, listening to them and asking questions [of them]. All who heard him were amazed at his intelligence and the answers he gave. His parents were astonished to see him there, and his mother said to him, ‘My son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’ ‘What made you search?’ he said. ‘Did you not know that I was bound to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he meant. Then he went back with them to Nazareth...
3. To be compared with this work is Van Meckenem’s earlier engraving (about 1490, Lehrs Vol. IX, 59) which apparently was after a drawing-study by Hans Holbein (see: Alan Shestack, Fifteenth Century Engravings of Northern Europe, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 1967-1968: no.225) and see the reproduction of this Van Meckenem in R.S. Johnson Fine Art Master Prints 1475-1825, 1985: p. 13. Also comparable with this woodcut is Dürer’s own slightly later painting (mentioned in Dürer’s letter of September 23, 1506), Christ Among the Doctors (in the Thyssen Collection). For further discussion of this subject, see Panofsky The Life and Work of Albrecht Dürer, Princeton University Press, 1971: pp. 114-115.