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The Tribute Money

Veneto school

The painting, depicting the Money Tribute, is traditionally considered to be a partial copy of one of the paintings on a similar subject produced by the young Titian in the 1560s (held in Dresden and London respectively), but a comparison with them reveals that they are actually quite different. The correlation with Titian's paintings is limited to the vertical format and the iconography with the two half-figures. However, the identification as it being a copy from an engraving by Cornelius Galle reproducing a lost work by Titian himself is correct.

Object details

beginning of the 17th century
oil on canvas
cm 81,5 x 59,5

Salvator Rosa (96 x 74 x 5,9 cm)


Rome, Borghese Collection; Inv. 1693, Room VIII, n. 61 (?); Inv. 1790, Room IX, n. 45 (?); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 37. Purchased by Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2004 Paola Mastropasqua


The painting depicts the Money Tribute, inspired by the Gospel of Matthew (17: 24-27). Previously thought to be derived from one of the works of a similar subject produced by Titian in his youth (Dresden, Gemäldegalerie, inv. 169) and in the 1560s (London, National Gallery, inv. NG224), a comparison with them reveals that it is actually quite different. The correlation with these Titian paintings is limited to the vertical format and the iconography with the two half-figures. It is an unsuccessful attempt to stylistically emulate the Master's works. On the other hand, its identification as a copy of an engraving by Cornelius Galle reproducing a lost work by Titian himself is correct (Herrmann Fiore 2006).

The painting’s inclusion in the Borghese collection could be dated to the end of the 17th century if we identify our painting with the one listed as follows in the 1693 inventory (which, however, contains an implausible attribution to Giorgione): “a painting of about 4 palms on canvas of Our Lord and a figure handing him a coin, inventory no. 83, gilded carved frame by Giorgione”. There is no doubt, however, about identifying it as the work described as “in the manner of Titian” in the 1833 fideicommissary inventory, prompting critics to note its similarity with Titian's originals (Venturi 1893; Longhi 1928; Della Pergola 1955).

Assuming that the lost prototype could have had a Borghese origin and indeed be the painting described in the 1693 inventory as a work by Giorgione, our copy might be traceable to the set of 17th-century reproductions made, sometimes in a rather rushed manner, on behalf of the Borghese family from the originals in their possession. The cleaning operation recommended by Della Pergola in the 1950s was not carried out until 2004, and while it did not reveal a “less lamentable study by an early 17th-century Roman painter”, it confirmed the possible date of the canvas. 

Pier Ludovico Puddu 

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 20;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 90;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 187;
  • P. Della Pergola, Galleria Borghese. I dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 134-135, n. 240;
  • P. Della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (III), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, 30, 1965, p. 204;
  • H.E. Wethey, The paintings of Titian, I, The Religious paintings, London 1969, p. 165;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 41.