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John Singleton Copley RA, The Tribute Money

The Tribute Money, 1782

John Singleton Copley RA (1738 - 1815)

RA Collection: Art

Copley chose to illustrate a Biblical scene relating to taxation for his Diploma work. The incident, taken from the New Testament, relates to the Jews in Jerusalem paying taxes to Rome. The Pharisees, attempting to trick Jesus asked him to give an opinion about whether this taxation was lawful. Pointing to the head of Caesar on a coin Christ replied that the Jews should ‘render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s’.

The narrative of the incident is clearly illustrated in this composition. Strong lighting and bold colours emphasize Christ’s importance, and the other apostles are suitably varied in pose and appearance. Some of these compositional elements were taken from an engraving of Rubens’s painting Christ giving the Keys to St. Peter.

Object details

The Tribute Money
Object type
Oil on canvas

1283 mm x 1537 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by John Singleton Copley RA accepted 1782

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