Follower of Hieronymus Bosch
- Hieronymus Bosch
- Christ expels the money-lenders from the temple
- oil on panel
- 115.7 by 173.1 cm.; 45 1/2 by 68 1/4 in.
With Brunner Gallery, Paris, 1910;
Art market, The Hague, by 1932;
With Morueco, Madrid, from whom acquired by the father of the present owner in 1973.
M.J. Friedländer, "Neues von Pieter Bruegel", in Pantheon, vol. VII, 1931, p. 58, reproduced;
M.J. Friedländer, "Pieter Bruegels Uddrivelsen af Templet", in Kunstmuseets Aarsskrift, Copenhagen 1932, reproduced on p. 9;
Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. Catalogue of Old Foreign Paintings, Copenhagen 1951, pp. 40-41, under no. 102;
Dutch and Flemish Paintings in the Glasgow Art Gallery, Glasgow 1961, vol. I (text), p. 31, under no. 1586, reproduced vol. II, p. 4;
M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. V, Leiden 1969, p. 83, no. 74a, reproduced plate 55;
M. Cinotti, The complete paintings of Bosch, London 1966, p. 115, under cat. no. 73;
P. Bianconi, The complete paintings of Bruegel, London 1967, p. 88, under cat. no. 8;
G. Unverfehrt, Hieronymus Bosch: Die Rezeption seiner Kunst im frühen 16. Jahrhundert, Berlin 1980, p. 285, cat. no. 142;
P. Vandenbroeck, in Hieronymus Bosch. The Complete Paintings and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 1 September - 11 November 2001, p. 153.
This beautifully preserved painting was executed in the third quarter of the 16th century by one of the so-called 'Bosch-revivalists'; a group of painters working in the years 1550-80 who sought to emulate and adapt the work of Hieronymous Bosch to modern tastes to cater for a surge in demand. Although catalogued by Max J. Friedländer as a copy after a design by Hieronymous Bosch, it seems likely that this panel is only partly derived from such a design and it in fact incorporates motifs and ideas from a wide variety of sources. Dr. Walter Gibson has suggested that several of the figure groupings show clear links with certain works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, such as his Summer drawing of 1568 and the composition depicting The Witch of Mallegem, now known only through a print published by Hieronymous Cock in 1559.1
Throughout the 20th century scholars have variously linked the painting to Bosch or Bruegel and it appears in the literature on both. It was only known from an old photograph, however, from the Brunner Gallery in Paris from 1910, so any analysis of it has been somewhat limited. More widely published, and better known, is a version of the composition in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen (Fig. 1). Both it and the present lot are clearly based on the same original design which spawned two further versions; one in Glasgow, Art Gallery,2 and the other in Tallinn, Kadriorg Art Museum (Fig. 2). Of the four known versions the Glasgow one differs most markedly from the present lot in its upright format and thus lacks the peripheral scenes of immorality. Interestingly Friedländer actually attributed the Copenhagen version to Pieter Bruegel and proposed a date of execution circa 1556.3 Both Glück and Van Puyvelde upheld the attribution to Bruegel but Charles Tolnay rejected it, followed by Genaille, Denis and all subsequent scholars. The Copenhagen, Glasgow and Tallinn versions are, however, certainly more Bruegelesque in conception than the present work. Dr. Paul Vandenbroeck has proposed that the present panel was possibly executed in the same workshop as a Wedding feast in Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes; a picture that has been variously attributed to Jan Verbeeck and Jan Mandijn, both of them leading figures amongst the Bosch-revivalists.
The common theme throughout the composition is the denunciation of avarice and covetousness. Aside from the obvious message in the principal scene, in which Christ drives the usurers and money-lenders from the temple, a quack tooth-drawer treats a woman while his accomplice picks pockets in the crowd, just as in Bosch's Conjurer;4 his target here a man with a goose in his sack, the goose itself marking the target out as an idiot. Behind this stands a man tied at the pillory and another hangs next to him in a basket above a canal; the man must cut the rope to free himself, thereby falling into the water and not escaping punishment. The painting's message is similar to that of the Conjurer, the 16th-century print of which is inscribed (trans.):
Oh what tricks abound in the world. Those who are able to produce wonders from the conjuring bag can, with their idle tricks, cause people to spew up marvellous things onto the table. That is how they strike. Never trust them, therefore, because you will regret it if you loose your purse.
Rhetoricians of the 16th century warned citizens attending celebrations, processions and the like to be vigilant of the ever-present pick-pockets and labelled as fools the people who placed their trust in quacks. This painting conveys a similar message of vigilance and dictates that usurers, quacks and hucksters are fit only for the gallows, and the juxtaposition of the scenes from Christ's Passion in the background only serves to intensify the painting's criticism of the deceptive and conniving miscreants who litter the peripheral scenes.
The painting has been requested for an exhibition to be held in Tallinn, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Antwerp (Koninklijke Museum voor Schone Kunsten) in 2011 which aims to unite all four versions of the composition for the first time.
1. For which see M. Sellink, Bruegel. The Complete Paintings, Drawings and Prints, New York 2007, p. 226, no. 149, and p. 125, no. 73 respectively.
2. Friedländer, under Literature, vol. V, p. 83, no. 74b, reproduced plate 55.
3. See M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting. Pieter Bruegel, vol. XIV, Leiden/Brussels 1976, pp. 19, 42, no. 3, reproduced plate 3.
4. See Vandenbroeck, under Literature, reproduced p. 37, fig. 32.