The index finger of his left hand touching the thumb of his right, the young Jesus sadly debates a mob of arrogant, self-righteous scholars. The mood is ominous. The doctors are challenging him, thrusting their sacrosanct doctrines at the fresh pure voice of the youth. They are so cemented into dogma that Jesus's moral and ethical message is an affront to their hard-held authority. Citing their previous books as "gospel," they have completely ignored his message--that one must live by the spirit, rather than the letter of the law.


The Christ figure seems hemmed in by a lynch mob of jealous elders. Though painted in soft renaissance color, the nightmarish quality, sense of frenzy, and almost-caricature-contrasts of the beauty and innocence of youth with repulsive, malevolent old age are stunning in black and white reproductions.

Faith versus science and reason, fruitless learning and the inner life are the themes of many of Dürer's woodcuts, engravings, etchings, and drawings. Most notable among these are "Melancholia," "St. Anthony Before the Walls of Nuremburg," "St Jerome in His Cell," and "The Artist's Mother."


Dated 1506; painted on poplar wood. The artist's note, "1506 opus qui[n]que dierum" [the product of five days] serves as a bookmark in the painting.

Primary Source

P. Strieder, Albrecht Dürer Paintings, Prints, Drawings (Abaris, New York, 1981)