Henry Ossawa Tanner: Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures (1909)

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures, 1909, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Image Source: wikimedia

Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures presents a dramatic, yet intimate scene. The figures of Christ and Mary clasp each other tenderly as they each hold the scroll from which they read, their physical bond an outward acknowledgment of their spiritual unity. Henry Ossawa Tanner’s lush, densely painted surface is restricted to shades of blue, purple, and gold, bathing the figures in a warm, golden light, a metaphor for the illumination gleaned from the scroll. His combination of the broken brushwork, Tonalist colors, and Symbolist subject matter has been compared to that of Albert Pinkham Ryder, without that artist’s obsessively overworked surfaces. Thanks to existing photographs, we know that Tanner used his wife and son as models for Mary and Jesus, giving the work a double resonance as both a meditative biblical scene and a tender family portrait.

Adapted from

Eleanor Jones Harvey, “Henry Ossawa Tanner, Christ and His Mother Studying Scriptures,” in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 243.

Dallas Museum of Art,

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Henry Ossawa Tanner at wikiwand

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Henry Ossawa Tanner paintings at wikimedia

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for sharing this poignant painting. The colours are really beautiful; a lovely blend of greens and blues and the way Tanner portrays Christ and Maria is so touching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My sentiments exactly, Yvonne! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sgk says:

    https://artincontext.org/botticelli-paintings/#:~:text=Botticelli%20painted%20Madonna%20of%20the%20Magnificat%20in%201481.,and%20the%20cosmos%2C%20anticipating%20what%20is%20to%20come. Immediately thought of this Botticelli.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We visited the Dallas Museum of Art five months ago but I don’t recall seeing this painting. Not all a museum’s pieces are on display at all times.

    I wondered about Tanner’s middle name, Ossawa, which Wikiwand explained: “His parents gave him a middle name that commemorated the struggle at Osawatomie between pro- and anti-slavery partisans.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am always dismayed to find out paintings are not being displayed. His parents chose a perfect middle name. 😎

      Liked by 1 person

  4. penwithlit says:

    Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lampmagician says:

    Wow! It’s such an extraordinary painting which I have never seen the same before. It is unique so far I can say. Thank you! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so pleased you enjoy this one, Aladin. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. dorahak says:

    Such tenderness captured ….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dora. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sgk says:

    Immediately thought of this painting: The Madonna of the Book by Botticelli:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How lovely! Thanks for the link, Sgk.😎

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful, nicely lit mother/son image. 😊
    Also, gorgeous use of colour.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those blues get me every time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Gia. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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