The Moneylender and His Wife

Quentin Matsys


Oil on Panel

Northern Renaissance


It is an artist’s duty to illustrate the values and culture of his place and time. The Money Changer and His Wife is a reflection of The Dutch, a life in the era of the northern Renaissance. My name is Quentin Matsys, you should know I am a progressive secular artist for my time. I draw from all sorts of inspirations, the masters, to the societies which enthral me have come before. This piece is a depiction of being torn between a devout christian life and that of a secular lifestyle based on commerce.


I chose to present this rift of conscious in the wife of the money changer. As you can see she is attempting to read scripture, however she is distracted by her husband’s coin counting. This creates a hierarchy of importance. Even more so, you can see the candle and water pitcher, two traditionally religious symbols, are overpowered by the stacks of money. He goes as far as to stack coins on top of the candle. However, there are a few less noticeable indicators of the two forces buting heads. There is the reflection of the mirror showing an outside structure of what looks like a steeple and church and a man reading what is presumably a bible. Might I be implying a sense of guilt to those who have strayed?


In addition to the secular aspect, I’ve tried to convey a subtle message of female independence. The composition is about her being split between two worlds. She shows aptitude in both areas, being versed in scriptures and understanding of her husband’s vocation. Is a woman only able to achieve this level of education in a secular environment? That might be what I’m hinting at.