Christ and the Adulteress

Object Details


Christ and the Adulteress


Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591 - 1632)




about 1620s


Oil on canvas


167 x 221.3 cm (65 3/4 x 87 1/8 in.)

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Light illuminates the neck and shoulders of a woman looking down at the figure of Christ kneeling on the ground. The Pharisees had brought to Christ a woman caught in the act of committing adultery. When they asked whether she should be stoned, he stooped down and began to write with his finger on the ground. When they continued to ask, Christ said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." The male accusers watch with varying expressions; some absorb Christ's words, while others recollect their own transgressions.

Profoundly influenced by Caravaggio's realism and dramatic lighting, Valentin de Boulogne used light and shadow and a shallow frieze-like arrangement of figures to convey the scene's emotion. Figures fade into the dark background, while faces, hands, and even a knee emerge from the dimness. The figures are highly individualized, especially the old man at the right who holds his glasses firmly to his nose in order to see better and the elderly man with the weathered face and scraggly hair who holds his cape back against his shoulder. For this biblical narrative, Boulogne used contemporary, working-class people as models, a practice initiated by Caravaggio at the turn of the century.

by 1679 - 1689

Possibly Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna, 1637 - 1689, by inheritance to his son, Filippo II Colonna.

1689 - 1714

Possibly Filippo II Colonna, 1663 - 1714

by about 1958 -

Private Collection (Rome, Italy)

by 1964 -

Private Collection (Possibly Galleria Levi) (Milan, Italy)

late 1960s - 1983

Private Collection (Switzerland), sold to P & D Colnaghi & Co. Ltd. (New York), 1983.


P & D Colnaghi & Co. Ltd. (New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.

Maestri della pittura dal '300 al '700 (1964) (23; entry by Mia Cinotti)
  • Galleria Levi, (Milan), 1964
Related Media
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    Audio: Christ and the Adulteress, feat. John Baldessari