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Rembrandt, 'The Woman taken in Adultery', 1644

Key facts
Full title The Woman taken in Adultery
Artist Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Date made 1644
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 83.8 × 65.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG45
Location Room 22
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Woman taken in Adultery

A woman weeps on the steps of a shadowy temple, while members of the Jewish ruling council gather round. Afraid of Christ’s popular preaching, they planned to trick him into transgressing the Jewish law. They said to him: ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say about her?’

This is the moment of decision that could entrap the young preacher. A man puts his finger to his lips as if hushing the crowd. Will Christ plead for mercy or will he uphold the law? It seems that either way, he will be condemned as well as the woman.

His reply became one of the most famous quotations in the history of Christianity: ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’ The woman was released, the accusers confounded. Christ was free to preach again, but not without a parting word to the repentant woman: ‘Go and sin no more.’

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