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Titian, The Tribute Money

Key facts
Full title The Tribute Money
Artist Titian
Artist dates active about 1506; died 1576
Date made about 1560-8 (perhaps begun in the 1540s)
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 112.2 × 103.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1852
Inventory number NG224
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Tribute Money

The Pharisees (chief priests) ask Christ whether it is right to pay tax to the Romans, who rule Palestine. Christ, sensing a trap, asks whose likeness and name are on the coinage: ‘They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then he saith unto them, render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 20).

It is almost certain that this is the painting that Titian described in October 1568 as one he had recently completed and sent to King Philip II of Spain. For 200 years it hung in the Sacristy of Philip’s royal residence and monastery of El Escorial. The subject is rare in art. Titian may have been the first artist to represent it in his painting of about 1516 for Duke Alfonso d'Este in Ferrara (now in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden). That painting served as a cupboard door for the Duke’s collection of ancient coins and medals.

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