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Christ Cleansing the Temple

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Christ Cleansing the Temple
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Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione


Christ Cleansing the Temple

Creation Date

ca. 1650s

Medium & Support

oil on canvas


16 1/4 in. x 28 1/16 in. (41.3 cm. x 71.2 cm.)

Credit Line

Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Accession Number



Public Domain

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Based on Rembrandt’s print of the same scene from 1635, this work focuses on Jesus’s rush toward the fleeing merchants. In contrast to Rembrandt, Castiglione places this drama in the background and fills the foreground with panicking livestock stampeding over merchandise splayed before us. Both parts of the composition complement each other thematically and reflect Castiglione’s sensitivity to current theoretical discussions on literature and art that considered the significance of sequential narratives in poetry and prose as well as the complementary interplay of foreground and background. Moreover, while his meticulous handling of the heap of animals and merchandise in the foreground demonstrates his brilliance as an animal painter, his lighter palette and fluid brushwork of the New Testament narrative echo that of his dry brush drawings.

Castiglione’s Career in the 1630s

After training principally in Genoa, Castiglione sought to reinvent himself as an artist during the mid-1630s in Rome, where he attended sessions at the Accademia di San Luca. There he would have been exposed to some of the issues of artistic theory and practice facing painters at the time. He would have sought to align himself with artists such as Domenichino, Sacchi, Testa, and Poussin, which may explain the dramatic hand and facial gestures of many of his figures, all geared to express emotions by visual means. Despite Castiglione’s attempts to accommodate reigning tastes in order to attract a broader base of clients in Rome and then back in Genoa during the late 1630s and early 1640s, he continued to look to others for inspiration, such as Rembrandt, whose rich chiaroscuro and dramatic subjects in his etchings he found appealing.

Timothy Standring
Gates Family Foundation Curator of Painting and Sculpture, Denver Art Museum

Portfolios: Collections: Paintings - European   FEAT|Highlights on View   Collections: Paintings   FEAT|European Art   Collections: All   FEAT|Public Domain