Unknown artist, Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple, 1569
The painting is one out of four almost identical Dutch paintings. The four paintings show Christ driving the traders from the temple and represent four versions of the same subject.
These are stories about morality, illustrated through enigmatic scenes in and around the temple, all playing on messages about religious conflicts and the contrasts between rich and poor, the learned and the ignorant. All of it set within a multi-ethnic society that almost seems to prefigure our own.
Bosch, Bruegel or?
We do not know who painted the four panels. The materials and techniques employed point towards the two artists Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450-1516) and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1527-1569), but at the time copying – of subjects and techniques alike – was widely practised. We cannot determine the true authors behind the paintings simply by looking at them, but the conservators can probe below the surface and help reveal the painting’s origins. In 2010 SMK began a study of the paintings together with Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn, Glasgow Museums, University of Glasgow and CATS to determine the four paintings' origins.
The study of the paintings
The study of the four paintings began on a ladder here in the Gallery. The Gallery’s version of the painting was carefully scrutinised alongside colleagues from Tallinn in order to compare details and painting techniques of the Copenhagen and Tallinn paintings.
This first encounter grew into a collaborative effort across national borders and sparked off true detective work: a hunt for hidden stories and narratives hidden underneath the paintings’ “skin”.
A wide range of specialists – conservators, scientists, and multi-media experts – have subjected the paintings to X-rays, infrared light, and UV light and carried out pigment analyses in order to reveal the paintings’ secrets and stories. Such modern technical studies allowed us to gain insights into the artists’ working methods, intentions, and workshop practices.
Unearthing the paintings’ secrets
What seemed at first glance to be four almost identical paintings turned out to be widely different. For each painting has its own story to tell when you delve below the surface. Even though they look similar and depict the same subject, the wood on which they are painted and the underdrawings underneath the paint all tell their own, unique stories.
Explore the layers of the painting
Click your way around the site using the links below and read about how the conservators worked with the various techniques and what they have discovered by using those particular methods. The main emphasis is placed on the painting owned by the Gallery. You can explore the three other paintings in greater detail on the project website.