This painting depicts one of the few stories from Jesus’ childhood. Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover the year Jesus was twelve. Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was traveling with relatives, but when they couldn’t find Him, they returned to Jerusalem and searched for Him.
“And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”1
This painting is set in Herod’s temple, where the Jewish elders express the astonishment Luke records. Mary and Joseph approach the steps of the temple, their relief at finding their son visible. “Here Bloch merges traditional religious imagery with his interest in scenes of everyday life. A young street boy, probably painted after one of Bloch’s own children, sits on a lower step of the temple. He looks curiously at the couple, perhaps wondering what all the fuss is about. He holds a leash attached to the caged dove, probably a reference to the doves sold for offerings in the temple.”2
Further reading: “The Life of Christ Painted by Carl Heinrich Bloch”
Further reading: “Teach the Children”
- Luke 2:46-49
- Dawn C. Pheysey and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, The Master’s Hand: the Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010) 73