What images teach us about the relationship between humans, money and trust
Quinten Metsys

Money-changer and his Wife

Oil on panel

74 × 68 cm


Musée du Louvre, Paris

Photo Credit: Erich Lessing/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Perugino, Pietro, Umbrian

Christ Giving the Keys to Saint Peter


3.48 × 5.70 m


Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome

Money is at the heart of the relationship between business and its shareholders and employees. Dividends, salaries, bonuses — all about are money. Works of art have long spoken to us about the necessary but ambiguous and ambivalent relationship between man and money. As an instrument of communication, it permits commerce and prosperity.  And when that money is gold, it assumes a mysterious aura associated often with miracles. Counted, weighed, exchanged, contemplated — paintings depict money as facilitating human relationships in both the public and private spheres.

The object of lust and denigration, money is often represented, in the Christian tradition, as the source of mortal danger for the health of the soul. What do images teach us about trust and the relationship between humans and money?  How are spirituality and religion critical to understanding the representation of money in Western art and our Western ideas, such as an “embarrassment of riches”? How are virtue and vice inextricably intertwined with money in the human mind? How does money, as represented in images inform our understanding of debt, credit, banking activities, and financial tools from Renaissance Europe to our contemporary world? How did artists in the past represent financial crises and what can learn from those images for today.