This large and impressive watercolor, signed and dated 1846, was part of an album given as a wedding present by the groom's family, the Orleans, to the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier. The album contained drawings by some of the foremost artists of the period, such as Delacroix, Chassériau, Meissonnier, Scheffer, and Paul Delaroche. The Duke of Montpensier (1824-1890) was the son of King Louis-Philippe and Queen Marie-Amélie who had commissioned in 1844 the painting for which this drawing is a highly finished study. The large painting (265 x 320 cm.) which was intended as a memorial to their son the Duke of Orleans who had died in 1842, was supposed to adorn the Chapel of the Château de Bizy. The Revolution of 1848 and the proclamation of the Second Republic and even more the creation of the Second Empire in 1852 forced Ingres to postpone the completion of his canvas until 1861. At Ingres' death in 1867 it was bequeathed along with the entire contents of his studio to the artist's native city, Montauban (see Ingres, exh. cat., op. cit., pp. 337-9, no. 145).
Of the more than 100 drawings that are known for Christ among the doctors (see G. Vigne, Dessins d'Ingres. Catalogue raisonné des dessins du musée de Montauban, Paris, 1995, nos.702-99) this one is the largest, the most finished and the only one in watercolor. But it is not the closest to the painted composition as there are many differences between this drawing and the canvas finished sixteen years later. Compared to the latter, there are fewer figures, and only one book on the floor while ten or so are visible in the Montauban painting. In this watercolor Ingres depicts a more classical and empty background and the architecture of the temple is deprived of the ornaments found in the canvas. Also, the artist uses in this watercolor soft and harmonious colours as they are more contrasted and vivid (one could say almost violent) in the painting.