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Jesus Among the Doctors (Jésus parmi les docteurs)

James Tissot

European Art

With the news of the death of Herod, the Holy Family returned from Egypt, settling in Nazareth and spending each Passover in Jerusalem. After one trip, Mary and Joseph belatedly notice that Jesus—now twelve years old—has been left behind in Jerusalem. Retracing their steps, they find him at the Temple, discoursing freely with the doctors, whom Tissot describes as “specialists in every branch of science, each one famed for his skill in one or other branch of knowledge.”

The learned men in this composition eagerly crowd around the young boy, anxious to hear his questions as he enumerates his points on his fingers. As Tissot notes, “His only aim must have been to prepare them more or less directly for His future mission.” The simple brown and white cloak worn by Jesus underscores his humble status, while the doctors wear colorful headdresses and flowing robes—likely based on the clothing worn by the many models Tissot sketched in Jerusalem. Although he made some minor revisions, the artist included one of his many models (see illustration) as the doctor at the top center who scratches his beard while listening intently to Jesus.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886–1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 8 15/16 x 6 9/16 in. (22.7 x 16.7 cm) Sheet: 8 15/16 x 6 9/16 in. (22.7 x 16.7 cm) Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed lower right: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.40
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    PROVENANCE 1900, purchased from the artist by the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION James Tissot (Nantes, France, 1836–1902, Chenecey–Buillon, France). Jesus Among the Doctors (Jésus parmi les docteurs), 1886–1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 8 15/16 x 6 9/16 in. (22.7 x 16.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.40 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.40_PS1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 00.159.40_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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