The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Centurion Cornelius (The Unmerciful Servant)
  • Follower of Rembrandt (1606 - 1669)
  • The Centurion Cornelius (The Unmerciful Servant)
  • Netherlands
  • c. 1660
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 176.5 x 216.2 cm
    Object size: 219.5 x 262 x 11 cm
  • P86
  • East Galleries I
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This painting was believed in the nineteenth century to be the work of Rembrandt, and was by far the most expensive of Lord Hertford’s collection of paintings attributed to the artist. In 1935, it was reattributed to a pupil or follower of Rembrandt, and the exact identity of the author remains disputed to this day.

    The subject matter also remains the object of debate. It has sometimes been identified as the parable of the Unmerciful Servant, taken from the New Testament, in which a king forgives a servant’s debts, only to find that the servant refuses such leniency to a fellow servant. An alternative reading is as an illustration of the story of the Centurion Cornelius, also from the New Testament. Cornelius had a vision of an angel, who instructed him to send men to fetch the apostle Peter from Joppa. Cornelius, here depicted as the lord of his household rather than as a military commander, did as the angel told him. He summoned ‘two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited upon him continually’, a description which accords with the appearance of the men who stand in attentive poses on the right.