Economic Activity as Reflected in Paintings Essay

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It is a Earners painting from the early 16th century. Not so many economists are, however, aware that there are two different versions Of this picture: one by Question Mammy’s, painted about 1514 (now in Paris, the Louvre), and another by Marinas (Cleanses) van Reimbursable, painted in 1539 (now in Madrid, in the Prod). There are significant changes between the two versions. This being the Scholastic period and also the epoch of the commercial revolution in Europe, we would expect this picture to have some sort tot economic meaning, and for the changes in the pictures to reflect these changes in economic activity and economic thought.
We will argue in this paper that there does exist such a meaning; and that also the very important changes between Massy and Remorselessly pictures have much to do with the economic changes in Europe in the beginning of the 16th century. Most art historians have seen in Massy’ and Remorselessly paintings a satirical and normalizing symbolism, The Money Changer and his Wife being the representation of greed. Others think that the picture shows economic activity in a respectable way.
Flanders at that time was the centre of a flourishing industrial and commercial activity, and also was the centre Of a mercantile trade n works of art. 80th things led to a representation of the professional activity Of moneychangers, goldsmiths, and bankers in a way that shows those activities as respectable professions. The second view is the one implicitly shared by economists when choosing this picture to illustrate many books on economics or business. Some scholars have proposed more subtle interpretations.
Marjorie Grace- Hutchinson, the historian of economic thought who first aroused the interest of economists in the Spanish Scholastics of “School of Salesman’s”, considers Massy’ painting to be an illustration of the intention of Scholastics to make imputable the commercial customs Of the time with Church doctrine on usury. According to her interpretation, Massy’ painting would mean the money lender working and, at the same time, discussing With his Wife the fairness Of a particular commercial deal, helped by the religious book his wife is reading.
It is important to notice that, 25 years on, the book in Reimbursable’ painting is no longer a religious work but an accounting book. But art historians claim that there is still some symbolism in the painting which gives it a normalizing and satirical intent. According to them, this symbolism was clear to contemporaries UT not to us; or sometimes would have been intentionally difficult to notice for those contemporaries who were not in the same religious group as the painter or his client, For instance, the long, curved fingers of the bourgeois couple allegedly represented avarice.
But Reimbursable painted the fingers tot Saint Jerome in the same way , so it must have an aesthetic intention and not a symbolic one. In the process of reviewing the different interpretations provided by art historians of this picture and other similar ones, we shall see that they are consistent with the that most art historians share about the economy as Hayes points out in his chapter of The fatal conceit, 1988, “The Mysterious World of Trade and Money”) rather than based on any objective interpretation of the painting and history.
Thus, while the picture shows commercial and financial activity to be a normal, respectable occupation, most art historians see a normalizing and satirical intention. My view is that art historians’ prejudice towards commercial and financial activity leads them to a wrong interpretation Of the paintings. When the painters wanted to be satirical and normalizing, they did it in a way that is clearly recognizable by us today. And that this is not the case with the The Moneychangers and his Wife, in either the version of Massy or that of Reimbursable. . Question Massy Let us start with Question The Moneychangers and his Wife, dated 1514. . It is probably derided from a lost work by Jan van Check, c. 1440. 13] On the table are placed coins, a set of scales, and various other tools of their trade. (“various other tokens of their wealth”, says the art historian Jean-Claude Freer, 1997, p. 186, This is our first difference in interpretation), The man is weighing gold coins with great care.
At that time, coins with the same face value aired in the amount of gold they contained (and therefore in their real exchange value), because it was a normal practice to file them down, clip them, or to shake them together in a bag in order to collect the gold dust they produced, So, the moneychangers is simply going about his business, not counting his money as a miser would du And, if you look at his face, it is not the face off miser, but the face of a concentrating working man, carefully carrying out his job.
His wife is looking at the coins and scales too; but she has a book in her hands, The book is a religious one, an illustrated “book of hours”. Marjorie Grace-
Hutchinson, the historian of economic thought who first brought economists attention to the Spanish Scholastics of the “School of Salesman’s”, considers Massy painting an illustration Of the intention Of the Scholastics to make compatible the commercial practices of their time with the Church’s doctrine on usury _ According to her interpretation, Massy painting portrays the money lender at work and, at the same time, discussing with his wife the fairness of a particular commercial deal, helped by consulting the religious book his Wife is reading. 41 Many other interpretations of Missy’s work consider this picture as to be a realizing one, in a much stronger sense than that of Grace. Hutchinson view.
The Incarnate Encyclopedia says: “In The Moneychangers and his Wife, the subtly hinted conflict between avarice and prayer represented in the couple illustrates a new satirical quality in his (It is curious that the “Web Gallery of Art”, together with the Incarnate article, provides this contradictory explanation: “The painting remains in the Flemish tradition of van Check, with the addition off profane sense of beauty, sign of a new Another scholar says this about Massy: “Painters also began to treat new subjects.
Men like Question Massy, for example, played an active role in the intellectual life of their cities and began to mirror the ethical concerns expressed by humanist thinkers with new paintings that used secular scenes to impart normalizing messages. Vivid tableaux warned against gambling, lust, and other At the bottom Of the painting there is a circular mirror; we can see the tiny figure of a man wearing a turban. For some reason, the following is the explanation Of the art historian Jean-Claude Freer: “a side Window, under which we can just make out the tiny figure of a thief.
He would seem to be spying on the couple as they count their gold, While they would seem to be Oblivious to his presence, blinded by their greed” . 18] Let us leave aside the greed and concentrate on the tiny man. Is he a thief? Don’t know. But I’m sure he is not “spying on the couple as they count their gold”: I am not an art historian, but it seems clear to me that the man is inside the room, he is reading a book and looking out of the window to the street. In think that this is not a casual mistake: it is consistent with art historians’ interpretation.
Symbolism, a source of moralistic interpretation My view is that art historians explanation of The Moneychangers and his Wife as a satirical work containing symbolic allusions hidden tromp contemporary observers, is merely a reflection of their own prejudices concerning certain economic activities. Let us consider the serious arguments supporting the symbolic explanations of paintings of the Flemish Renaissance, in order to be able to judge when a painting has this meaning and when has not.
The famous art historian Erwin Pompanos held that the Early Hemi painters had to reconcile the “new naturalism” with a thousand years of Christian tradition. Based on SST. Atoms Aquinas, who thought that physical objects oeuvre “corporeal metaphors for spiritual things”, Pompanos (Early Netherlands Painting, 1953) maintains that “in early Elements painting the method Of disguised symbolism was applied to each and every object, man made or There are other historical sources that point to a symbolic meaning in the painting Of Question Massy.
In his painting Portrait Of a Merchant and his [Figure 31 there is a clearly legible inscription, in French: “L ‘avaricious nest Jamaica rumple dragnet… Nay’s point couch des richness injustices, car less e Voss profiterole en rein AU sour De la visitation et De la vengeance. Soy’s don sans avarice”. This is a paraphrase of the Gospel of SST Luke, Chi. XII, 15, 21-34; Saint Matthew, Chi. VI, 19-21 -Jean Calicles says that the main character in the painting “est. osmium la parole ©van©liqueur.
II est. fragment fide©lee Dana less richness injustices, II en cede pas a la solicitation du Tentative quiz, derriere LU, lee visage tutor par lavaliere et la soot du lucre, LU propose des compete fantasies” painting and Economic Activity at Hander’s We can expect the Flemish painters to be familiar with market oriented economic activity and the money world, because of the society in which they lived. Flanders at that time was the center of a flourishing industrial and commercial world, and also was the center of a mercantile trade of works of art.
Both things led to a representation of the professional activity of moneychangers, goldsmiths, and bankers in a way that shows those activities as respectable ones. Most Flemish artists ever familiar with this world because of their own craft Of painting, Which was indeed market oriented. Massy was the most important of Antwerp painters of his time; and this means his shop was an example Of how artistic production was organized in Antwerp, and formerly in Brumes. It is not at all odd that Flemish painters should portray business people.
Massy worked for religious confraternities, and also painted portraits and other profane subjects, sometimes satirical, in response to commissions from humanists and scholars. FRR©re says that Massy was “perfectly attuned to the new mercantile conception of art. Antwerp was already established as an active and liberal center for trade in art” (1997, p. 186). Both Antwerp and Brumes had a regulated guild system for painters at the ginning of the sixteenth century, It is important to notice not only the art of the painter, but also the evolution of the master’s workshop.
At the beginning of the Renaissance, training in a craft took place in workshops regulated by civic authorities: apprenticeship was followed by admission to a guild. The end of the century, “workshops had become more like shops nowadays, turning out goods for a flourishing private market accountable to no one. And change came without a defining moment and putout artists missing a beat. Workshop assistants had certain preparatory tasks, including grinding pigments, laying rounds, and the transfer of under-drawings. Experienced assistants took on subsidiary passages, including background or stock figures.
Assistants also made copies to keep pace with demand, and they had access to the master’s designs once they set up for themselves. Workshop copies ranged from straightforward replicas to transpositions into Other media and from large commissions to private, devotional The conventional portrait off rich man But this familiarity Of artists With a commercial society does not lead them automatically to portray business people in their trade, as “occupational artists”: the common way to portray a business man was in a way that showed him as a religious man, or as an intellectual in his house, surrounded by works of art and literature.
The best known example is The Rainproof Portrait by van Check, hut there are many others. In the triptych The Last Judgment, painted in 1480 by the Flemish painter, working in Brumes, Hans Mewling, we can see the portraits of Tomato Portrait and his wife, naked inside the scales; and those tot Anglo Tania and his Witt, Catalina Attaining, kneeling on the floor at prayer. 41 Both portrait and Tania were important business men working in Brumes branch of the Medici company.
In the Italian Renaissance, Lorenz De Medici is portrayed as one of the Magi in Journey of the Magi, It was quite common to include the donors’ portrait in a religious scene. Tomato Portrait and his wife, Maria Baronial, were also directly portrayed by Mewling, at prayer. (The fact that Antwerp was a rapidly enriched city and lacked a traditional aristocracy, may well have been an important reason for the artist representing economic activity in the portraits of businessmen, instead of the traditional “rich and cultured” portrait). 3. Marinas Van Reimbursable
Let us now move on to the other version of the portrait and to a different year. Marinas van Reimbursable The Moneychangers and his Wife, painted in 1539, is inspired by Massy. “The painting which has inspired our logotype is internationally famous as an image of financial activity during the Renaissance: it shows a scene typical tot the counting house of a banker tooth period.
The object of the pair of moneychangers shoves us a new profession which has appeared in the period, a profession related to the world tot finance, taxes and commercial accounts, Reimbursable adapts the subject of the banker and his wife from Missy’s painting now in the Louvre in Paris. In Remorseless painting, the bourgeois married couple are seen counting out gold and silver coins, and the husband is weighing them with great care in a small set of scales, since most of them would be clipped or scraped The coins are probably the product of tax-collection, an exchange of foreign currency or the repaying of a loan.
This would imply the use of the abacus which the banker has at his right on the table, and then the setting out of accounts in the accounts book which the wife is holding in her delicate fine Compare the explanation of this picture given by the CAE with the moralistic and over-sophisticated explanations Of the art historians. The changes Between 1514 and 1539, many things have changed. In particular, the accelerated growth Of the economy that stemmed from the discovery and colonization of the New World, and the religious transformation known as Lutheran Reformation.
Reimbursable was himself involved in the Lutheran Reformation. We know that in 1567, being an old man, he took part in the sack of Middlebury cathedral, and was severely punished (six years of banishment and public humiliation). Reimbursable specialized in everyday scenes of flourishing Flanders, with great realism, which gives his works a considerable documentary interest. (Paintings by masters of Northern Renaissance realism often recorded official contracts or acts. The LaM. Year’s Office, 1545, by Reimbursable, is a remarkable example of this practice.
Recent research has demonstrated that the documents, which form the background tot the painting refer to an actual suit begun in 1526 in the town of Reimbursable on the North His subjects were businessmen: usurers, notaries, tax gatherers; but what could be seen as “occupational portraits” are always stressed as normalizing: Another art historian says “usuries, changers, vocals, notaries, percepts topmost, monde après et replace De “argent tossups plus puissant Dana IEEE metropolis enrich.
Cart De Marinas presents nun accentuation pressure caricature, quiz done a Louvre as port©e moralistic” (Philippic, 1994, p. 173). Pulled considers that, in the genre painting by Marinas van Reimbursable, he realist portrait turns into a caricature Of rapacious and greedy businessmen. In Reimbursable The Moneychangers and his Wife, he says, “l’©sprit De lucre est. plus memento marry© Dana less physiognomies et less idiots emigres” (Puzzled, p. 3; we will turn to the fingers latter). The study of the gold coins that appear in the painting shows that “the coins are mostly Italian and are all of types minted before 1520” (Pulled, p, 17). This could mean that the painting is a trial effort done by Reimbursable, before his first clearly datable painting, Saint Jerome, of 1521.
The importance of Pulley’s argument is not the exact date, which I cannot dispute, but the tact that Pulled considers The Money changer and his Wife closer to a portrait than to a satire, as compared to later works by Marinas: later in his career, Reimbursable would have abandoned portraiture and turned to satire and caricature (“pamphlet”, says The public appears to have had a preference for satire, and Marinas sought to satisfy the public with pleasant humorous pictures which enjoyed great popularity among collectors of the period.
Other paintings contain inscriptions which refer to the taxes charged n beer, wine or fish In one of the copies or imitations of The Lawyer’s Office, titled The Notary’s Study, the document the notary is reading has been deciphered: it appears to be a parody of legal slang. Even the signature on the document in French reads “Notaries inflame et fussier” . Usually museum guides reflect the views of art historians.
Referring to Reimbursable The Moneychangers and his Wife, a guide to the Prod says: “In this painting we find all the characteristics of Northern European painters: minute detail, fine quality raw material, an empirical approach to reality, and above all, the naked sordidness with which Van Reimbursable approaches one Of the principal evils Of his time: usury, the greater Of all possible sins in a commercial society such as Flanders.
Corruption and fraud affected all levels of society, even the clergy, producing a critical reaction on the part of writers, theologians and Reimbursable was not the only painter who developed Massy portraits; several other Flemish painters did. Again, there are significant differences in their style, differences which influence the overall “tone” of the picture either as “occupational portrait” or “caricature”. My point is that a common spectator of today can spot the difference.
Chronicle van deer Capable painted Lee percept damp¶TTS et son Grant and Lee Percept damp¶TTS test Femme, in which we can notice a real, kind portrait of the businessmen, quite far from any caricature. But, even given the very different styles, I find no moral satire in Reimbursable The Moneychangers and his Wife, as compared to his other works. In Reimbursable version, the religious book has disappeared. This is an obvious change, since Marinas was a Protestant and wouldn’t have accepted NY other religious book for daily reading than the bible.
But there is no bible in Marinas painting. Instead, there is a hand-vitiated book, with no illustrations, Which seems to be an accounting book. The characters in Reimbursable painting are most elegant, With luxurious clothes, and long, delicate fingers. This is also thought by some scholars to be satirical: “Long, curved fingers were, in WI century, a sign of greed or avarice, so an apparently domestic subject can also be full of moral Long, curved fingers and noses use to represent Jews and, by extension, greed or avarice in Christian iconography.
It may be important to notice that Jews played an important role in Nonvoter’s economic activity. The money market was controlled by the Italian Lombardi, and Jews could only act as minor money- lenders. The Jews lent mainly small amounts tot money tort shorter periods of time to less wealthy people such as butchers and bakers, Scarcity was an excellent situation tort Jewish money-lenders. As a consequence, they had many clients among the common people who probably had great difficulties in paying them back.
This fact may have reinforced the strong anti-Semitism prevalent at that mime, There were a massacre of Jews in Antwerp in 1350, and then many Spanish and Portuguese “maroons” came to settle there after 1492 and 1437, expelled from Spain and Portugal] I haven’t fully explored yet the possibility of the satirical portraits being racist or anti-Semitic). But the long fingers can imply other things: they can be an esthetics technique to make people appear more mystical, materialistic, attractive.
We could interpret thus the fingers of Reimbursable’ Saint Jerome, in 1521. And Saint Jerome transmits you the idea of ascetic sanctity, the antithesis of greed. (Although, again, mom scholar says that Remorsefully painting Of Saint Jerome is “stressing the crabbedness of scholarship”. Even if that is correct, it would not be the crabbedness Of greed). TO me, the long, curved fingers Of the moneychangers and his beautiful wife imply simply elegance. This is my personal impression.
If then kick at Other paintings by Reimbursable, for instance, the two Tax Gatherers (also The Misers), described by the same scholar as “exceedingly ugly and covetous”, I don’t need to be his contemporary to notice the satirical meaning. 1251 After comparing their clever interpretations with what a spectator sees in Hess pictures, would recommend that the meaning of a painting, as given by art historians, not be accepted uncritically: their judgments appear to be based upon certain prejudices, in this case concerning commercial and financial practices, rather than any objective analysis of the painting. . Other Flemish “occupational portraits” If you look at other paintings of the same school, it is easy to find examples of “good”, non critical or satirical, representation of moneychangers, goldsmiths, and bankers. Adrian Scenarist Man Weighing Gold (c. is described in this way by Jean E. Wilson: “This sensitive portrait of a banker or, perhaps, a moneychangers reveals the sitter’s evident pride in his occupation.
The portrait also Serves as an example of the Widening interest in portraiture, which had gradually extended to members of the business sector” In Hieronymus Pooch’s The Table of the Deadly 1480, avarice is shown as a judge who is being bribed.
This is completely different from the activity of the banker: what Busch shows us is not a profit-seeking commercial practice which is therefore sinful, but an act of corruption which would be taken to be immoral equally in a commercially oriented society or in an ideal world described by Scholastic theologians. Another example of an “occupational portrait” is the portrait of a Merchant by Jean Grossest (c. Thought to be a portrait tot Ceremonious Candelas, a real merchant from Zealand, in Hander’s. There is nothing satirical about it: it is a purely “occupational portrait”.
But the National Gallery of Art Brief Guide says this: “the sitter’s furtive glance and prim mouth are enough to inform us of the insecurity and apprehension that haunted bankers in the sass, when the prevailing moral attitude was summed up by the Dutch humanist Erasmus, who asked, “When did avarice reign more largely and less punished? 130] SST Eely (Elegies) in His Shop, 1449, by Peters is the clear representation of a goldsmith working in his shop and attending two clients: a rich, well-born bridal couple.
It seems to be a representation of the goldsmith’s trade, with the excuse of the portrait of a saint (hardly a subtle ploy, since SST. Eely is the patron Of goldsmith’s guild). The goldsmith sits behind a Window sill extended to form a table, a pair of jeweler’s scales in one hand, a ring in the Other _ Only his halo suggests that the painting deals With legend. On the right is a display of examples of the goldsmith’s craft. The picture may very well have been painted for a goldsmith’s guild (the one in Antwerp). SST. Elegies is the Patron of metalworkers.
As a maker of reliquaries he has become one of the most popular saints of the Christian West. Elegies (also known as Eely) was born around 590 near Lingoes in France. He became an extremely skillful metabolism and was appointed master of the mint under King Cloth of the Franks. Elegies developed a close friendship with the King and his reputation as an outstanding metabolism became widespread. It is important to notice that most prominent features in the elite tot SST. Elegies can be seen both as indications of sanctity and the best professional characteristics of a good goldsmith.
In the goldsmith’s trade, skills were as important as reliability, as Adam Smith notices in Wealth of Nations: *The wages of goldsmiths and jeweler’s are every- where superior to those of many other workmen, not only of equal, but of much period ingenuity; on account of the precious materials with they are entrusted” 132] Elegies is praised for both qualities. From his biography, we can see how important this reliability of his goldsmith was, for the king to become Elegies’ protector: “The king gave Elegies a great weight of gold.
Elegies began the work immediately and from that which he had taken for a single piece of work, he was able to make two. Incredibly, he could do it all from the same weight for he had accomplished the work commissioned from him Without any fraud or mixture Of cliques, or any other fraudulence. Not claiming fragments bitten off by the file or using the devouring flame Of the furnace for an The portrait Saint Elegies by Peters Christ is a fine example of the “occupational portrait”, describing a goldsmith’s shop, the only religious connection being the halo and the fact than the saint is the patron of the guild.
The true “normalizing” pictures of the Flemish School Look at the painting The Ill-Matched Lovers, c, 1520, again you don’t need to be a contemporary of his to notice the satirical intention, (It is important to notice that the theme of love between he old and the young was extremely popular in sixteenth century, and we can agree that both the popularity and the moral view has changed on this subject in modern times.
The meaning of the painting, however, hasn’t changed at all, because the artist doesn’t paint the old man with tenderness and love and mature elegance, but as undignified uncontrolled, despicable desire). There are other paintings by Marinas which shows a clearly satirical approach, or at least an ugly expression which does not imply pride in the profession: see The Lawyer’s Office, 1545, and The Misers (also known, in different erosion, as The Tax Gatherers or The tax gatherer and his guarantor). This one shows “devout tax collectors, or rather a treasurer, or an administrator With his clerk, the collector with a winking grimace….
The treasurer enters in a book the sums received for the taxes… With his right hand counts and weighs the Both of them look clearly satirical for a modern observer. 5. Conclusion This paper has compared the rival interpretations provided by economists and art historians of the painting The Moneychangers and his Wife. The painting is seen as an “occupational portrait”, showing a banker in his office, carefully sighing coins simply because this is one of most prominent features of his trade. It is a clearly secular subject, much more so in Remembrance’s version: the religious hooks in the woman’s hands has been turned into an accounting book.
We could expect Hemi painters to be familiar with market oriented lived. Hander’s at that time was the center off flourishing industrial and commercial world, and also was the center of a mercantile trade in works of Both things led to a representation of the professional activity of respectable ones. In the process Of reviewing the different interpretations provided by art Astoria about this picture and other similar ones, we have seen that they are consistent With the views that art historians share about the economic activity, rather than based on any objective interpretation of the painting and history.

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