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El Greco has used theatrical gestures and intense colours to express the chaos and disruption of the Purification of the Temple – the moment that Christ drove out traders selling animals for sacrifice, furious that the temple was being used for commerce. Christ’s anger is shown through his body, arm raised ready to strike; he looks like a spring ready to uncoil.
El Greco painted this subject at least four times, but this is one of the most dramatic versions. In the sixteenth century the episode was seen as a parallel to the cleansing of the Catholic Church through the Counter-Reformation.
Oil on canvas
H 106.3 x W 129.7 cm
Presented by Sir J.C. Robinson, 1895