Christ Among the Doctors


Albrecht Altdorfer ( German, 1480 - 1538 )

c. 1515
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General Description

Albrecht Altdorfer painted some of the first pure landscapes in the art of northern Europe. As an illuminator, draftsman, printmaker, painter, and architect, he was one of the leading artists of his native Regensburg. His fame derives from a period of concentrated activity between 1506 and 1522, during which time he created his powerfully imaginative landscapes and received some of his most important religious commissions.

Christ among the Doctors illustrates Altdorfer's detailed treatment of religious themes. Within an extraordinarily diminutive format, Altdorfer depicted the complex biblical narrative in which the twelve-year-old Jesus learns from the elders in the temple at Jerusalem. In the gospel according to Luke, Jesus had accompanied his parents to the city for Passover. Mary and Joseph left for home, not realizing their son had remained in the city. They returned and searched for him for three days before finding him in the temple. Altdorfer placed Jesus at the center of the composition, seated on the ground and pointing to a page in a book held by an elder. The teachers at the left, listening intently, seem perplexed by the young boy's knowledge, while the robed figures behind Jesus clasp their hands in prayer. Altdorfer's precise depiction of the temple's vaulted ceilings and Gothic pillars adds great depth and realism to the scene, and his hatches and crosshatches intensify its three-dimensionality by contrasting light with dark and by creating form-defining contours. Widely distributed throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, prints such as Christ among the Doctors were instrumental as educational devices.

Excerpt from

Shirley Reece-Hughes, "Christ among the Doctors", in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ _ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 78.

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