Renowned for his sober religious works, Philippe de Champaigne was also one of the most sought-after portraitists of his time.
This episode is recounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Seeking to entrap Jesus while he taught at the temple in Jerusalem, a group of Pharisees asked him whether one should pay taxes—tribute money—to Rome. A negative answer would offend the Roman authorities, while a positive answer would upset the Jews, who opposed the occupation. Drawing attention to the image of Caesar on a coin, Jesus responded, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” In this mature work, Champaigne has notably borrowed compositional elements from Raphael, while the composition’s classicism and formality reflect the art of Poussin. The life-sized figures seem to embrace the viewer within their circle. The figure at the far right is clearly a portrait, likely a self-portrait.