MASSYS, Quentin
(b. 1465/66, Leuven, d. 1530, Antwerpen)

The Moneylender and his Wife

Oil on panel, 71 x 68 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

To a certain degree in opposition to the Romanists amongst his contemporaries, Massys held fast to the traditions established by Early Netherlandish art. Italian influences, to which he was only indirectly exposed, nevertheless make themselves felt in the monumentalization of his figures.

The Money-changer and his Wife is an early example of the genre painting which would flourish in Flanders and the northern Netherlands over the course of the 16th century. Seated behind the table, and each sliced on one side by the frame, the figures are set back from the front edge of the painting. Although sophisticated in their nuances of colour, the faces wear an expression of relative indifference. Full of their own life, on the other hand, are the still-life details - the lavishly illuminated codex through which the wife is leafing, the angled mirror, which reflects the outer world into the picture in masterly foreshortening, and the glass, accessories and coins gleaming on the table and on the shelves against the far wall. In the dominant role which it grants to these objects, the painting marks an important step along the path towards the pure still life.

By inserting his own likeness into the painting - reflected in the convex mirror Massys recalls the use of this device by Jan van Eyck in The Arnolfini Marriage of 1434.

There exists several, partly different copies of the painting.