Christ of the coin (about 1625)

Cristo della moneta (circa 1625)

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Author/ School/ Dating:

Antoon Van Dyck (Anversa, 1599 - Londra, 1641)

Technique and Dimensions:

Oil on canvas, cm. 142 x 119


Genova, Musei di Strada Nuova - Palazzo Rosso, inv. PR 191


From 1874 in the collections by donation of Maria Brignole - Sale De Ferrari, Duchess of Galliera

The canvas, referring to the period of the painter’s stay in Genoa, can be dated to around 1625 and reveals a deep influence of Venetian painting and, in particular, of Tiziano both as regards the pictorial technique and chroma both as regards the formal structure. The work is in fact a reinterpretation by Van Dyck of a composition of similar subject painted by the painter Cadore for Philip II of Spain, now preserved at the National Gallery in London and, probably known to the Flemish through an engraving by Martino Rota. The latter fact explains why the representation of Titian is here taken in counterpart, on the basis of the inverted engraving image.
The narrated episode, drawn from the synoptic gospels, refers to the artificiosamin controversy which the Pharisees and Herodians attempt to involve Jesus in taking a position on the controversial controversy over taxes and, more generally, on the question of recognition of the political authority of Rome. The Pharisees, bitter enemies of the Roman power in Palestine, ask Christ whether it is lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not, he responds to show him a coin and asks who the image and the inscription that is above; ;the "adversaries" reply that image and inscription are of Caesar, the image was in fact that of the emperor Tiberius.
Jesus, pointing to the effigy on the coin, says "Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s", thus implicitly inviting the Pharisees to distinguish between civil authority and religion.
The painting, which as early as 1748 was in the collection Brignole - Sale at Palazzo Rosso, came to the City of Genoa for legate of Maria Brignole - Sale De Ferrari, Duchess of Galliera, in 1889.