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Work Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple

Department of Paintings: Flemish painting

Jesus Driving the Traders from the Temple

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

Flemish painting

Collange Adeline

The baroque dynamism and colorful protagonists of this masterpiece painted around 1645-50, during the artist's mature period, caught Charles Natoire's attention, and he bought the painting for Louis XV.

The tumult described in the New Testament

Jesus enters the Temple and, with a whip, drives out all the merchants soiling its sacredness with their base trade. The extraordinary tumult is perfectly in keeping with New Testament accounts, notably in the Gospel according to Saint John: "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market'"(John 2:13-15). The tangle of men and animals contrasts with Jesus' monumental stability and serene expression.

A skillfully constructed composition

Despite appearances, the composition is a skillful construction based on six horizontal bands, in which Jordaens has placed his twenty-one figures. The verticals of the imposing architecture in the background, with its columns, arches, and entablatures, in turn give the space rhythm. The light, playing on stark contrasts, is used to great dramatic effect, with the powerful diagonal seemingly unleashed by Jesus' whip recalling certain episodes of divine vengeance in the Old Testament. The chaotic tangle of the figures enables Jordaens to indulge in magnificent displays of painterly bravura. He has sculpted every taut muscle of the figure kneeling in the foreground. Even more daring and masterful is the striking foreshortening of the merchant toppling backwards: he seems to be falling out of the canvas.

A gallery of telling faces

The painting, produced when Jordaens was sixty-three, is from the artist's late period. He had taken over the studio of Rubens, who had died ten years earlier. The baroque commotion and use of vivid, unctuous color are reminiscent of the great Antwerp master, for whom Jordaens worked for twenty years. But Jordaens' manifest delight in painting such a wide range of faces is all his own. In the wave of panic, each person embodies a different sentiment with their expressive grimaces: dumbstruck or terrified awe, hatred, anger, and the cold calculation of the high priests looking down on the scene and already plotting Jesus' demise. It was this expressive range, oscillating between triviality and caricature, for which Jordaens was famous. He exploited it to the full in another popular subject - profane yet moral - The King Drinks (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels).


Patrice Dubois, "Les marchands chassés du Temple de Jordaens", Exposition, Paris, musée du Louvre, 1977-1978, Le XVIIe siècle flamand au Louvre : histoire des collections / André Roy, Paris : Musées nationaux, 1977, p. 3-7.

Technical description

  • Jacob JORDAENS (Antwerp, 1593 - Antwerp, 1678)

    Jesus Driving the Traders from the Temple

  • H. 2.88 m; W. 4.36 m

  • Acquired for Louis XV by Natoire, Peintre du Roi, 1751

    INV. 1402

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Flanders, 17th century
    Room 800

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