Scenes from the Life of the Prodigal Son

Master of Saint Christopherabout 1530

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

On this sheet an unnamed artist known as the Master of Saint Christopher combined various scenes into a continuous narrative that proceeds left to right like a cartoon strip. The prodigal son takes leave of his father, lavishes his money on worldly pleasures at a brothel, gets chased away by prostitutes, lands in a pigsty, and finally reconciles with his father. In the 1500s, this popular parable taught about the sin of extravagance and the virtue of forgiveness. In contrast to the text of the Bible, which emphasizes the father's final act of forgiveness, artists and patrons of that period often focused lively attention on the brothel scene. The artist set it further forward than the rest of the action, with the detailed landscape and architectural passages of the other episodes forming an elaborate backdrop.


  • Title: Scenes from the Life of the Prodigal Son
  • Creator: Master of Saint Christopher
  • Date Created: about 1530
  • Location Created: Netherlands
  • Physical Dimensions: 19.2 × 51.4 cm (7 9/16 × 20 1/4 in.)
  • Type: Drawing
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Pen and brown ink and gray wash, over traces of black chalk
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 90.GG.7
  • Culture: Flemish
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Master of Saint Christopher (Flemish, active first half of 16th century)
  • Classification: Drawings (Visual Works)

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