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Ludovico Mazzolino, Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery

Key facts
Full title Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery
Artist Ludovico Mazzolino
Artist dates active 1504; died 1528?
Date made 1522
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 46 × 30.8 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG641
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery
Ludovico Mazzolino

The Scribes and Pharisees (experts in religious law) brought to Christ a young woman caught having sex outside marriage (John 8: 1–11). They asked him whether she should be stoned to death in accordance with the laws of Moses. Jesus, seeming not to hear them, stooped down and wrote on the ground. They kept asking him and Jesus replied: ‘He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.’

The Scribes and Pharisees left. When Jesus asked the woman whether any man had condemned her, she said no. He replied that neither did he and told her to go and sin no more.

The scene is set in front of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Christ’s words are written in Hebrew on the steps. One of the roundels decorating the building shows Moses and the Ten Commandments, which include the seventh commandment against adultery. The temple is presented as a fortress of the Old Law, but Christ stands outside it, representing the New Law.

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