Visiting Masterpieces
The Steven and Dorothea Green Collection
Dirck van Baburen: Christ among the Doctors


Even Jesus, the Son of God, could be a disobedient child.

Dirck van Baburen
Dutch, ca. 1595-1624
Christ among the Doctors ca. 1622
Oil on canvas

Lent by the Steven and Dorothea Green Collection




Here a New Testament story is portrayed. At age twelve, Christ accompanied Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem but failed to return home with them. His frantic parents searched high and low. "And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors [the temple elders], both hearing them and asking questions." Mature beyond his years, Jesus had gone to the temple, where he began to discuss fine points of biblical scholarship with the learned men who "were astonished at his understanding and answers."

Dirck van Baburen is one of the earliest and most famous of the so-called "Utrecht Caravaggisti," artists from Utrecht who traveled to Rome and responded to the revolutionary work of Caravaggio. From Caravaggio, Barburen learned how to stage his story with dramatic lighting and to describe his characters with humble and unidealized qualities, including the dirty bare feet shown so prominently by the rabbi at the right.

Though he painted mainly religious subjects, Baburen also created scenes of ordinary life on occasion. His Procuress of 1622 was sufficiently admired fifty years later that the great Dutch master, Vermeer, included it in the background of several of his pictures.


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