Two men seated at a table in an interior are sorting out the local finances, as we can gather from the notes in the book in which one of them (probably the city tax collector or treasurer) is writing. A series of typical objects in such works are painted in minute detail, such as the coins of diverse origin piled up on the table. The date 1548 appears in the book, which has enabled historians to narrow down the date of the painting.
Inspired in models by the painter Quentin Metsys, Marinus repeated this composition, with a few variant features, on several occasions; numerous other versions of the work (by other artists, such as this one) are also known, a fact that proves the interest in the subject. Furthermore, it highlights the relevance of new professions—tax collectors, bankers, moneylenders and usurers—that emerged during the 16th century as a consequence of the growth of trade and the increasing importance of the bourgeoisie. These paintings contain a moralistic intention derived from a critical view of greed, as revealed by the face of the character pointing to the coins, which in other versions is portrayed with exaggerated features.
In this picture the characters are treated realistically and their expressions are well balanced, closer to the original models employed by Metsys than to those of Marinus, which were more angular and loudly gesticulative. [A.S.L.]
Xesqui Castañer. Pinturas y pintores flamencos, holandeses y alemanes en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao : Fundación Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa, 1995, pp. 125-128.
Las tablas flamencas en la Ruta Jacobea. [Cat. exp.]. Logroño : Diócesis de Calahorra y La Calzada-Logroño, 1999, pp. 162-163, il. 119.
Ars mechanicae: ingeniería medieval en España. [Cat. exp.]. Madrid : Ediciones del Umbral, 2008, p. 223.
Ana Sánchez- Lassa de los Santos. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 34, n.º 20, ad vocem.