The man in the red woollen tunic on the left of this painting is Marcus Curius Dentatus. He is holding up a turnip in one hand and, with the other, waving away the gold and other gifts being offered to him by the man with the white robe and red cloak, who is a leader of the Samnites. He is attempting to bribe the Roman consul but Marcus Curius’s plain garb and turnip show that he is content with his simple lifestyle and has no desire for the luxurious gifts on offer.
As the leading city of the Dutch Republic, Amsterdam saw itself as the successor to the Roman Republic (509 - 31 BC). During the republican period, Rome was ruled by consuls, to whom the Dutch burgomasters compared themselves. The message of the painting is that, like the Consul Marcus Curius, the burgomasters would practise moderation and resist any attempt at bribery.