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El Greco, 'Christ driving the Traders from the Temple', about 1600

Key facts
Full title Christ driving the Traders from the Temple
Artist El Greco
Artist dates 1541 - 1614
Date made about 1600
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 106.3 × 129.7 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir J.C. Robinson, 1895
Inventory number NG1457
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ driving the Traders from the Temple
El Greco

El Greco has used theatrical gestures and intense colours to express the chaos and disruption of the Purification of the Temple – the moment that Christ drove out traders selling animals for sacrifice, furious that the temple was being used for commerce. Christ’s anger is shown through his body, arm raised ready to strike; he looks like a spring ready to uncoil.

A sculpture of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, to the left of the archway, reinforces the sinfulness of the traders' actions. In contrast, Christ’s apostles stand in front of a relief sculpture showing the Old Testament figure Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his own son on God’s command.

El Greco painted this subject at least four times, but this is one of the most dramatic versions. In the sixteenth century the episode was seen as a parallel to the cleansing of the Catholic Church through the Counter-Reformation.

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