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Philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus - Northern School circa 1700
Philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus - Northern School circa 1700 - Paintings & Drawings Style Philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus - Northern School circa 1700 - Philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus - Northern School circa 1700 -
Ref : 102888
Period :
17th century
Provenance :
Northern School
Medium :
Oil on canvas
Dimensions :
l. 17.32 inch X H. 19.29 inch
Paintings & Drawings  - Philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus - Northern School circa 1700 17th century - Philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus - Northern School circa 1700
Galerie Thierry Matranga

Old paintings, religious artifacts, archeology

+33 (0)6 77 09 89 51
Philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus - Northern School circa 1700

Oil on canvas
This pair of portraits represents the two Greek philosophers Heraclitus (544 – 480 b. JC) and Democritus (460 – 370 b. JC), whose marked expressions reveal their respective thoughts. Seneca tells us that Heraclitus "wept and felt sorry for all those he met who were happy and satisfied", making him "a compassionate, but too weak, soul of those who should be pitied". On the contrary, Democritus "never appeared in public without laughing, so little serious did he find the acts that all did seriously". Thus Democritus is represented laughing at the theater of humanity, here materialized by the globe; the red of his tunic embodies his sanguine temperament while the blue of Heraclitus' robe refers to a certain form of consciousness. Older than Democritus, as evidenced by his long beard, Heraclitus is collapsed with his hands clasped on the globe, weeping for the misfortunes of humanity. The opposition of the two philosophers has a particular topicality in the literature of the XVIIth century which tends to group the two men in a unique entity embodying two facets of melancholy according to a tragi-comic register. The notions are opposed and reversed: their excessive attitudes are in reality not a sign of passion but the proof of a high degree of conscience. However, the one who laughs and whom Socrates accused of being mad is in fact the wise man according to Seneca who recommends us "not to find the vices of humans hateful, but laughable, and to imitate Democritus rather than Heraclitus", to take all things with good humor and lightness because "it is much more in keeping with human nature to laugh at existence than to groan about it". For the Christians of the Great Century, Heraclitus' weeping is a breach of the theological virtue of hope by which the faithful must "place their trust in the promises of Christ, leaning, not on their own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit".

The iconographic milestone of the two Greek philosophers experiencing their emotions around a globe is due to Bramante, in a fresco he painted in 1486 for the poet Gaspare Visconti. However, the manner of our work undoubtedly places our artist among the painters of the northern schools. Indeed, the marked expressions of the two philosophers refer to the taste for caricatured figures in Flemish genre painting of the 17th century. Thus, if the absence of emphasis distances him from the very baroque style of Peter Paul Rubens, our painter nevertheless takes up the gestures of the hands and the robes enveloping the terrestrial globes that the Antwerp master had composed in two paintings representing these philosophers, made in 1603 and 1638 in Spain and now preserved respectively in the Museum of Valladolid and the Prado. Finally, our artist also borrows from the style of the Dutchman Rembrandt a certain impasto of the touch for the faces, important luminous contrasts and a dark chromatic range. In this respect, the turban worn by Heraclitus is reminiscent of the many representations Rembrandt delivered of King David. Thus our artist synthesizes the multiple contributions of the Dutch and Flemish schools of the 17th century.

We have chosen to present our philosophers in precious green and ochre polychrome casseta frames.
Dimensions : 26,5 x 22 cm - 49 x 44 cm with the frame

Bibliography :
- DAWSON, Kiang, "Bramante's 'Heraclitus and Democritus': The Frieze," Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 1988, 51. Bd., H. 2 (1988), pp. 262-268.
- DORION, Louis-André, " Héraclite ou Héraklès ? à propos d'Épictète, Manuel 15 ", Revue de philologie, de littérature et d'histoire anciennes, 2015/1 (Tome LXXXIX), pp. 43-63.
- VILA BAUDRY, Bérénice, " Le rire de Démocrite et le pleurer d'Héraclite. La représentation des philosophes de l'Antiquité dans la littérature des Siècles d'or ", Mélanges de la Casa de Velázquez, 39-1 | 2009, 277-281.

Galerie Thierry Matranga


17th Century Oil Painting