Inventory number
P01682
Author
Rubens, Peter Paul (and Workshop)
Title
Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher
Chronology
1636 - 1638
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimensions
180,5 cm x 66 cm
School
Flemish
Theme
Portrait
On display
No
Provenance
Royal Collection (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid; Royal Palace of El Pardo, Madrid; Royal Palace of El Buen Retiro, Madrid, “sala de conversación”, 1772, [s. n.]; Royal Palace, Madrid, “pieza de entrada para la habitación de la reina de Etruria que está de blanco”, 1814-1818, s.n.)

Democritus of Abdera (460-370 B.C.) is the pictorial pendant of Heraclitus (P01680) as well as his philosophical counterpoint. Wearing bright colors, he laughs sarcastically while contemplating a globe of the Earth, alluding to his concept of the comic meaning of life. During the Modern Age, this was interpreted on the basis of Christian precepts as a message alluding to the vanity of earthly life.

This work was made for the Torre de la Parada, a small royal palace near Madrid, where it hung between windows or doors. It was often though to be a portrait of a geographer.

 
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