Christ Discovered in the Temple

Simone Martini, 1342

WAG 2787

About this object

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.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Simone Martini (Italian, born:1284 about, died:1344)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Tempera; Panel
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 49.5 cm x 35.1 cm; framed: 63.5 x 49.9 x 9.1cm
  • Physical description
    A blue-robed figure of the Virgin seated on the left appears to be questioning her pre-teenage son Jesus, shown standing on the right with his arms folded in front of him. Standing and interceding in between mother and son is Joseph, who has his left hand on Jesus's back and his right hand gestures palm upwards towards the Virgin. Written in Latin on the 'prayer book' on the Virgin's lap is the question she is asking: ‘Son, why hast thou dealt with us thus'. Jesus is about to reply: 'I was about my [heavenly] Father's business'.
  • Related people
    Liverpool Royal Institution (Previous owner) ; Simone Martini (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 2787
  • Credit line
    Presented to the Walker Art Gallery by the Liverpool Royal Institution in 1948
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 01, 1.1
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • Liverpool Royal Institution

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1948
    Disposal method: Presented to the Walker Art Gallery


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: SIMON.DE.SENIS.ME.PINXIT.SUB.A.D.M.C.(CC)XL.11
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Moulding
  • Inscription text: Seal (of Col. Matthew Smith)
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
Object view = Fine Art
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