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“The Tribute Money” by Titian

"The Tribute Money" by Titian

“The Tribute Money” by Titian

“The Tribute Money” by Titian depicts the Pharisee, who asks 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.”

The painting shows Christ and a Pharisee at the moment in the Gospels when Christ is shown the coin, and he says

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Titian painted at least two versions on this subject. The first version in 1516 which is now in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden. Titian’s later composition, in 1540, is exhibited in the National Gallery. 

In the first version, Christ is about to touch the coin, and in the later version, Christ is pointing to the heavens.

"The Tribute Money" by Titian

“The Tribute Money” by Titian – first version – Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden

The subject was rare in art, and the first version may have been the first representation in art.  It was commissioned to decorate the door of a cabinet containing the collection of medals and ancient and modern coins of Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. 

When the painting was produced for Duke Alfonzo, the theme had personal significance for him as the Papacy had excommunicated him after he had not supported the papacy during a specific war.

The Duke of Ferrara was also opposed to the papacy, which had been aggressively expanding the Papal States and wanted to absorb Ferrara’s Duchy.

For Alfonso, the message in this painting was probably that the Papacy should concentrate its attention on church matters instead of expanding its territory. Duke Alfonzo had included part of the gospel text of the episode on his gold coinage.

The second version of the painting was sent to King Philip II of Spain, and it hung in the Sacristy of Philip’s royal residence and monastery of El Escorial for 200 years.

After Spain, the painting joined the collection of Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany. It was rescued from destruction during Dresden’s bombing in World War II when it was stored, with other works of art, in an underground tunnel.

When the Red Army found the art collection, they took them to Moscow. The painting was badly damaged by water and was painstakingly restored by Russian painter Pavel Korin. Together with many others, in 1955, the painting was returned to Dresden, then in the DDR.

Render unto Caesar

“Render unto Caesar” is the beginning of a phrase used by Jesus in the gospels, which reads in full, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” 

This phrase has become a widely quoted summary of the relationship between Christianity, secular government, and society.

The phrase gives rise to multiple interpretations about the circumstances under which Christians should submit to earthly authority.

The text identifies the coin, and it is thought that the coin was a Roman denarius with the head of Tiberius.

The Tribute Money Titian

A Roman denarius featuring Tiberius Caesar Augustus

The inscription reads, “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus.” The reverse shows a seated female, usually identified as Livia, depicted as Pax.

During Jesus’ lifetime, several other coins in circulation may be possible candidates, including:

  • The Antiochan tetradrachm bearing the head of Tiberius, with Augustus on the reverse.
  • Augustus’s denarius with Caius and Lucius on the reverse, while coins of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Germanicus. 

At his trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was accused of promoting resistance to Caesar’s tax.

The Tribute Money – 1540

  • Title:              The Tribute Money
  • Italian:           Cristo della Moneta (“Christ of the coin”)
  • Artist:            Titian
  • Created:        1540
  • Media:           oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  Height: 112.2 cm (44.1 in); Width: 103.2 cm (40.6 in)
  • Museum:       The National Gallery, London

The Tribute Money – 1516

  • Title:              The Tribute Money
  • Artist:            Titian
  • Created:        1516
  • Media:           oil on panel
  • Dimensions:  Height: 750 mm (29.52 in); Width: 560 mm (22.04 in)
  • Museum:      Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden


The artist of this masterpiece, Titian, was the most famous painter of the 16th-century Venetian school.

So much so that his contemporaries recognized him as one of the most accomplished painters, adept with portraits, landscape, and mythological and religious subjects.

His application and use of color, his vivid, luminous tints, his brushwork, and subtlety of tone had a profound influence on Western art.


What Makes a Master: Titian

A Tour of the National Gallery

15th Century Paintings

Titian’s technique

16th Century Paintings

Titian: Love, Desire, Death

Tour of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister


“The painter must always seek the essence of things, always represent the essential characteristics and emotions of the person he is painting.”
– Titian


Photo Credit:1)Titian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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