TENIERS, David the Younger
(b. 1610, Antwerpen, d. 1690, Bruxelles)

The Works of Mercy

1640s
Oil on copper, 57 x 77 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Works of Mercy, a famous theme drawn from the Gospel of St Matthew, listing six kinds of charitable deeds (to which, in the thirteenth century, was added the burial of the deceased), was highly appreciated by Teniers or by his clientele: at least five other versions of that theme had been recorded in the painters's work. Its imagery had been widely diffused in the painting of the former Lowlands since the fifteenth century. The seven works of mercy prescribed the Christian's fundamental duties towards his fellow-creatures: quench the thirsty, feed the hungry, dress the naked, welcome the pilgrims, visit the sick and the prisoners and bury the dead. Teniers chose to represent these scenes in space and to privilege the first three of these good deeds in the foreground of the picture.