- Inventory number
- Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y (Spanish)
- Ca. 1638
- 179 cm x 94 cm
- On display
- Colección Real (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid, 1703-1711; Torre de la Parada, 1714; Palacio de El Pardo, Madrid, pieza duodécima, 1747, nº 122; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, paso de tribuna y trascuartos, 1772, nº 929; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, pieza de vestir, 1794, nº 929; Palacio Real, Madrid, [1ª] pieza de vestir, 1814-1818, nº 929).
A Greek writer of fables from the sixth century B.C., Aesop appears disheveled, a reference to his humble condition. His right hand holds a book symbolizing his literary activity. The pail of water at his feet recalls the ingenious answer that earned him his freedom from slavery, while the bundle with utensils refers to his death. The citizens of Delphos, angered by Aesop's criticism of that city's excessive reputation hid a goblet among his belongings in order to accuse him of robbery and punish him with death.
With considerable economy of means, Velázquez manages to transmit a true and believable image similar to many of his portraits at that time. It has much in common with his portraits of buffoons, especially his choice of a physically vulgar character that is nevertheless represented with enormous dignity. Of particular note is the superb rendering of the head, whose wise and skeptical gaze confirms the high intellectual stature of this character. He is also identified by the inscription at the top.
Painted for the Torre de la Parada, it was probably intended to hang next to Menippus (P01207) and Mars (P01208).