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Christ disputing with the Doctors in the Temple
Ludovico Mazzolino

On their way home from the Passover celebration, the Virgin Mary and Joseph could not find 12-year-old Jesus and anxiously searched for him. They found him sitting under the portico of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, discussing theology with the Temple elders. Mazzolino shows Christ seated on a gilded throne, surrounded by theologians. The Virgin and Saint Joseph, identified by their haloes, listen to Christ’s wise words, and the Virgin crosses her arms in reverence.

The structure directly behind Christ may represent the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets with the Ten Commandments was stored. The frieze on its front depicts Moses showing the tablets to his people and above it is the Hebrew inscription: ‘The House which Solomon built for the Lord’ (1 Kings 6: 2).

The similarities between this work and Mazzolino’s Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery (dated 1522), also in the National Gallery, suggest they were painted around the same time.

Key facts
Artist Ludovico Mazzolino
Artist dates active 1504; died 1528?
Full title Christ disputing with the Doctors in the Temple
Date made about 1522-4
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 31.1 x 22.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1897
Inventory number NG1495
Location in Gallery Not on display
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