Aristotle with a Bust of Homer by Rembrandt van Rijn - 1653 - 143.5 × 136.5 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art Aristotle with a Bust of Homer by Rembrandt van Rijn - 1653 - 143.5 × 136.5 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer

Oil on canvas • 143.5 × 136.5 cm
  • Rembrandt van Rijn - July 15, 1606 - October 4, 1669 Rembrandt van Rijn 1653

The painting we present today probably depicts the richly clad Greek philosopher Aristotle, who rests his hand pensively on a bust of Homer, the epic poet who had attained literary immortality with his Iliad and Odyssey centuries before. Aristotle wears a gold medallion with a portrait of his powerful pupil, Alexander the Great; perhaps the philosopher is weighing his own worldly success against Homer’s timeless achievement. Although the work has come to be considered quintessentially Dutch, it was painted for a Sicilian patron, Don Antonio Ruffo, at a moment when Rembrandt’s signature style, with its dark palette and almost sculptural buildup of paint, was beginning to fall out of fashion in Amsterdam. What's interesting is that Don Ruffo did not request any particular subject and despite not knowing what Rembrandt would create, he was already eager to hang it in his Hall of Fame. Ten years later, Rembrandt created Homer Dictating his Verses and a lost painting of Alexander the Great for Don Ruffo.

There are many interpretations of this painting, but the most popular one states that the main theme in it is the idea of contemplation. The people in Rembrandt's paintings often stare as if they are lost in thought, which makes contemplation Rembrandt's most commonly used theme. Also, the artist painted a black apron, because the color black represents melancholy. 

P.S. The Night Watch is certainly one of the most famous artworks by Rembrandt. Here are 15 facts you might not know about it!

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