As a child, Christ abandoned his parents during a visit to the Temple in Jerusalem and stayed behind to teach among the scholars there. His mother's words on finding him again are written in Latin on the book she holds: 'Son, why have you dealt with us like this?'
The picture is signed and dated in Latin along the bottom edge of the frame: 'Simone of Siena painted me in the year of Our Lord 1342'.
Simone was among the greatest artists of 14th century Italy. This work, however, was painted in Avignon in France, where the papal court was in exile from Rome. This lavish picture was presumably commissioned for private devotion by a high ranking patron, possibly the pope himself.
The jewel-like colours, the use of richly patterned gold and the graceful lines of the figures are characteristic of the Gothic art of France as well as Italy. It is typical of Simone that these decorative qualities do not detract from the solemn emotional drama of the scene which is conveyed through gesture, pose and facial expression.