This is a famous early renaissance painting by the master Masaccio, titled Tribute Money. You may have heard the story in the Bible, that to pay taxes to the Romans, you had to travel to your hometown in Israel, and pay “tribute” to Rome.
The disciple, Peter has gave away all of his money to feed the poor, etc. Jesus tells everyone to relax, and tells Peter to go talk to the fish on the left of the painting. The fish opens his/her mouth, and there is a coin to pay the tax collector on the right side of the painting.
This type of painting that shows a narrative of a few different events, is called a continuous narrative.
In my lecture on the painting by Van Eyck, I stated that the renaissance artists were trying to suggest earthly reality in their art. Realistic lighting, three dimensional figures; and believable spaces are all important elements of renaissance art.
The Tribute Money is a painting on the wall of a church. The artist uses a paint that can stick to a plaster wall, and must be painted while the portion of the wall is damp. This type of painting is known as fresco, meaning fresh in Italian.
Masaccio’s frescoes had a great influence on Michelangelo when he later painted the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling.