The Arundel Society was founded in 1848 to ‘elevate the standard of taste in <!--?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /--><?xml:namespace prefix="st1" /?>England, and... exert a beneficial influence upon our native and national schools of painting and sculpture’ (Art Journal, 1869). It was named after the second Earl of Arundel, Thomas Howard (1585-1646) who was one of the greatest art collectors of his era and patron of Wenceslaus Hollar, who is well represented in Te Papa's collection.<!--?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /-->

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The Society published poster-sized copies, books and casts of over 600 works of European art of the 1400s to 1500s and marketed them to the public. The reproductions were available to Society members, but wider audiences could see them in showrooms and educational establishments. By doing this they made artworks available to people who had little chance of seeing the real works. While these reproductions were regarded as almost devoid of interest for much of the 20th century as part of the anti-Victorian backlash, today Arundel Society prints are viewed with general interest as a window into mid-19th century culture, education and the so-called 'Age of Improvement'. They have even recovered albeit modestly in their market value.

It was a long process to produce these copies. First the Society asked artists to copy the works of art in watercolour; these copies were mass-produced, firstly by engraving and from 1852 as chromolithographs, or coloured prints. John Ruskin was on the Society’s council and wrote the text for some of its books. He added a number of Arundel Society prints to the Ruskin collection.  Te Papa currently has at least 16 Arundel Society prints, seven of the monochrome engravings and the remainder all chromolithographs.

The 'original copy' of this work by Renaissance artist Pinturicchio was by Cesari Mariannecci, and the chromolithography was by Vincent Robert Albert Brooks (1814-1885) of Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Ltd. Pinturicchio's famous fresco, <em>Christ among the doctors</em>, dates from 1501 and is located in the Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore, Spello, in central Italy; it is sometimes known as the <em>Dispute with the doctors</em>. Here it is deliberately depicted within its architectural setting, which is part of the didactic function of such an Arundel Society print. Jesus is disputing with the scribes outside the Temple in Jerusalem. This event is reckoned among the seven sorrows of the Virgin; the selection of scenes for the chapel was based on the fact that she served as its patron.

The debate takes place on a broad square in front of an imposing domed structure representing the Temple, which is where the biblical gospel of St Luke tells us the confrontation took place. The setting is reminiscent of Perugino's depiction of <em>Christ surrendering the keys to Peter</em> in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.

Christ stands on the central axis of the composition, his books scattered on the pavement in front of him. By contrast, the richly dressed scholars either clutch their books close to their chests or read aloud from them. The crowd is formed by standard characters including young couples, wise men, toothless women and other spectators. These include some portraits, such as that of Troilo Baglioni on the left, who is dressed as a high-ranking prelate.


Museums Sheffield, 'The Arundel Society', http://collections.museums-sheffield.org.uk/view/people/asitem/items@null:749/0?t:state:flow=010b6498-8d88-40b2-9554-d665018f0c56

National Trust, 'Christ Among the Doctors by Pinturicchio...',  http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/286656

Web Gallery of Art, 'Pinturicchio', https://www.wga.hu/html_m/p/pinturic/baglioni/2doctor.html

Wikipedia, 'Baglioni Chapel', https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baglioni_Chapel

Dr Mark Stocker   Curator, Historical Art    September 2018


  • Title: Christ among the doctors
  • Creator: Bernadino Pinturicchio (after) | Arundel Society (publisher) | Vincent Brooks, Day & Son Ltd. (lithographer)
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 640mm (width), 585mm (height)
  • Rights: No Known Copyright Restrictions
  • External Link: Te Papa Collections Online
  • Support: paper
  • Registration ID: 1992-0035-2233

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