Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple El Greco Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This complex piece was titled Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple and arrived in the year 1568, whilst the artist, El Greco, was in his late twenties.

This artwork features an event in the Life of Christ, and El Greco would call upon this religious figure many times within his career. He was a deeply religious individual who felt drawn to the emotive, iconic scenes found within the Bible and often would work for religious institutions who demanded such content in any case. The artist would actually cover this theme several times, releasing other versions under the alternative name of Purification of the Temple. A reproduction was also produced which can now be found at the National Gallery in London, UK, whilst the version displayed on this page is to be found at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., making it one of the few El Greco paintings in North America. The style of this piece is typical of the artist's early work, and shows nothing of the expressive tones which appeared in his later years. The colours feel Venetian, pointing to his artistic education in Italy and it would be nine years after completing Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple that he would re-locate to Spain.

This artwork is in landscape dimensions, measuring 83cm wide by 65cm tall. There are a wealth of figures included within this scene and the central point to the story is that of Christ forcing traders to leave the temple, accusing them of turning it into a "den of thieves". The tale appears many times within the New Testament and has been taken on by a number of artists. Christ demanded that the temple remain a place of worship, and not somewhere to be used for profiteering, even theft. Christ was a highly moral figure whose life is divided into stories across the Bible which help to teach his followers about how to live a wholesome and worthwhile life. El Greco was entirely knowledgeable on such topics and would have also studied other artist's interpretations of this theme before producing his own versions. Interestingly, this work features a large amount of architectural detail that was certainly less common once he moved to Spain.

The overall piece feels more classical in style and whilst there is plenty of drama within the painting, there is none of the expressive work of the artist that provided his signature approach from later years. All of the colours here are carefully fused together, without the clashing contrasts of light against dark. One could easily have attributed this to an Italian artist from around the same period, and whilst it is impressive technically, it does not show an artist's own ideas at this stage. He did receive an impressive and important grounding within art during his time in Italy, and could have stayed within the Italian school quite successfully but eventually his flair and creativity would take his work into new directions which allowed him to leave behind a truly unique body of work.

Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple in Detail El Greco