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Jacopo Bassano and workshop, The Purification of the Temple

Key facts
Full title The Purification of the Temple
Artist Jacopo Bassano and workshop
Artist dates active about 1535; died 1592
Date made probably about 1580
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 160.5 × 267.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Philip L. Hinds, 1853
Inventory number NG228
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Purification of the Temple
Jacopo Bassano and workshop

Christ arrives at the temple to find it full of money-changers and traders. Christ says, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them’ (Matthew 21: 12–15).

Jacopo Bassano has depicted both parts of the story. Christ first appears lashing a whip to clear the crowd and livestock. He appears again in the background healing people. The money-changer grasping his carpet-covered table has often been thought to be a portrait of the painter Titian. If so, it would suggest that Bassano was making a cutting comment about the senior artist’s love of money.

The subject of the Purification of the Temple was rare in Italy at that time but Bassano returned to it many times. He had a special interest in painting animals, so it must have appealed to him. This picture appears dark because, over time, the upper paint layers have become translucent revealing the priming layer of nearly black paint beneath.

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