The Tribute Money
Tizian (c. 1488/90-1576) | Painter
The subject here is the provocative question posed by the Pharisees as to whether it is right to pay taxes to the Emperor in Rome. Christ cleverly avoided the trap by asking for a coin bearing a portrait of the Emperor and saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”. The young Titian focused on the contrast between the confident Christ and the perfidious Pharisee. The painting was intended for the door of the Duke of Ferrara’s famous coin collection.
Unlike the vast majority of the other paintings, Titian’s Tribute Money is shown in its own display case – and perhaps you are wondering why. This is because Titian's painting is so exceptionally sensitive. This great Venetian artist painted this work on a poplar panel and the pigments easily flake and come away from the ground. As a result, the Tribute Money needs to be kept in an environment with a higher humidity than most other paintings – and this display case has its own humidification system.
In the right-hand corner at the base of the painting, you can see a narrow white strip. That was the original colour of the Pharisee’s shirt – it was naturally white. Conservators took the lower corner to test what would happen if the painting was cleaned – an experiment quickly abandoned. Even the most careful cleaning would strip too much of the original surface from this exceptionally fragile painting.
- Material & Technique
- Oil on poplar panel
- Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
- c. 1516
- Inventory number
- Gal.-Nr. 169