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Art for Meditation - May 2017


Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg 1471 –1528), Christ among the Doctors, 1506, oil on poplar panel, 65 cm x 80 cm, Madrid, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

This intense and peculiar representation of the well-known evangelical episode was made by Dürer in just 5 days during his second stay in Venice (in addition to the artist’s monogram, we can read Opus Quinque Dierum, meaning “made in five days”, on the slip of paper sticking out of the tome in the lower left corner).

The composition is completely new; the characters occupy the whole scene, encircling the young Jesus. There’s little space left for the dark background to show.

The six doctors around Christ, which are arguing with him, have original, expressive facial features: a real gallery of portraits. Special interest is given to the hands, especially those of Jesus and of the character on his right, that seem to form a vortex, a wind rose, on which the verbal dispute is transferred.

Apparently, the sweet face of the young Christ seems to have no chance against those wise and diabolical scholars. He seems to be destined to fail in a dispute to which the 6 have come "armed" with all their knowledge, such as scriptural tomes, the prescriptions of the law (note the verses of the Bible stuck to the cap of the character on the left), the awareness of their competence.

Yet the awareness that he had to "take care of the things of his Father", gives the boy the strength to hold on to whomever intends to put him in difficulty, knowing well that the logic of the gift for which he has come into the world must prevail in any case and everywhere, so that everyone can receive salvation.

And in this way he gave the example to all those who are still called today to do their part in order for the testimony to be given. Therefore, no one can say, "I'm young," "I'm tired," "I only have two loaves" ... every one of us is called to make an active, irreplaceable contribution.