This modestly sized painting is just over 80cm in width and retains a prominent position within this respected art gallery. It is currently their only Albrecht Durer painting, though they do serve a number of related artists in more depth. Durer himself completed this painting whilst on his second visit to Venice in northern Italy. He had earlier arrived just before the turn of the century and would find some inspirational artists who would help shape his future development, so much so that he decided to return just a few years later in order to continue to study art from this region in greater detail. Christian themes would dominate much of his oeuvre and he tackled some of the same topics across different mediums, such as the oil paints found here, plus also engravings and woodcuts. Durer was extraordinarily gifted as an artist, technically, but also his ambitious nature helped to bring new ideas from across Europe, further widening the scope of his work.
This painting places a youthful Jesus Christ centrally, with a whole series of elderly men grouped around him. The layout of this piece is similar to contemporary Italian art of that period and so he was clearly adapting to his hosts during this work. On his second visit to Italy the artist was now highly regarded and so received favourable treatment, whilst on his first visit he was more of an unknown and so had to work harder to inorder to attract patrons and access some of the old masters' paintings which he was so keen to learn from. We do know that the artist was fond of Jesus Among the Doctors, discussing it in various correspondences that he shared with friends back in Germany whilst he was away working. Such documentation has also helped us to place it accurately within his overall career and also to understand more about the reasons he had for working in the way that he did for this particular piece.
There is an interesting blend of youth and the elderly, attractive beauty and ugliness within this contrasting piece which speaks of both Italian and northern European influences. Notice, for example how the various figures are laid out in a way which makes each one relatively independent of the next, and also in how they cover pretty much the entire canvas, with no real background showing through. Some have suggested the influence of Leonardo and Bosch on this piece. The story itself placed Christ at age 12 at the time of this scene which broadly works with the style of his portrait here. He was lost for several days by the Virgin and Saint Joseph before being discovered in a temple in Jerusalem, discussing and debating with this group of doctors who listen intently to the young boy who surprises them with his intelligence and maturity.