Render unto Caesar
Render unto Caesar is the only scene taken from the New Testament to decorate the fireplaces of the Château d’Écouen. It is the scene during which Christ recommends to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (this episode is told by three evangelists: Luke, 20:20-26; Mark, 12:13-17; Matthew, 22:15-22). Inside an oval medallion, the scene shows Christ encircled with a halo and dressed in purple in the foreground surrounded by a group of Pharisees in a clearing near the foliage. In the background, a stretch of water baths a medieval city against a mysterious horizon of blue-toned mountains. The subject seems to be a pretext for the representation of a landscape resembling the painting of the north or even the painting of Niccolo dell’Abate who worked at the Château de Fontainebleau. The fantastical representation of the foliage suggests the unstoppable passage of time. The tree on the left lives in winter, whereas its neighbour in the centre is in full springtime bloom and the last one, on the right, is in summertime. An important place is dedicated to ornamentation that stands out against a trompe-l’oeil background imitating the golden mosaics. Amidst a profusion of fruit, flowers, interlaced strips of leather, cherubs, palm branches and crowns, stands a faun blowing into a double horn. This decorative repertoire done in grey brings to mind the one in the François I Gallery at Fontainebleau by Rosso Fiorentino.