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Tax Collectors

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Marinus van Reymerswale
Reimerswaal 1490/ 1495 - Goes 1546/ 1556
oil on panel
65 x 52 cm
Inventory number 244

Marinus van Reymerswale, an artist from Zeeland, made several paintings of tax collectors in the course of his career. Sometimes he worked out his portraits in detail, in other instances he rendered caricatures to sell in the open market. In this particular version, one of the two Tax collectors is quite busy: he is noting down the amounts in excise levied on a variety of commodities, such as beer, fish and wine. He is wearing a conspicuous pointed hood, elaborately decorated with threads and ribbons. The pompous headgear gives him a comical, almost ridiculous appearance. He is assisted by a colleague, whose gaze is directed straight at the viewer as his right hand points at the all-important collection records. Is this painting to be interpreted as a warning or as an exhortation? Is it about honesty or deception? Miserliness or frugality? Sin or virtue?

Adaptation

This version is most probably an adaptation of an earlier portrait of the tax collector in the artist’s birthplace Reimerswaal, with altered facial features. The identity of the model can only be derived from the text on the page in front of him. It makes mention of Visbrug (‘Fish Bridge’), which points at the town in Zeeland.

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