The Money Changer / The Tax Collectors

15XX | 16th centuryOil on canvas

This genre scene of the Flemish school enjoyed great popularity until the 17th century, so that there are many variants and copies of it known under different titles: “The usurers”, “Portrait of a merchant and his associate”, ”The tax collectors”, and “The misers”. Over time, the caricatural nature of the scene became more pronounced, reflecting the low level of sympathy customers accorded to this profession.

In the corner of a wood-panelled office, surrounded by all the utensils needed in his trade, an elderly man wearing a red Burgundian headdress is seated at a table covered with a green cloth. With his left hand, he is counting the gold and silver coins strewn on the table and writing numbers in a ledger, clearly with great concentration. A second figure is seated on the left of the first. Holding a purse and familiarly placing an arm on his shoulder, he is staring at us while pointing at the pile of coins with his finger, seemingly inviting the viewer to put his money on the table.

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