Aristotle with a Bust of Homer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer
Aristotle with a Bust of Homer
Rembrandt - Aristotle with a Bust of Homer - WGA19232.jpg
ArtistRembrandt Edit this on Wikidata
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions143.5 cm (56.5 in) × 136.5 cm (53.7 in)
LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art
IdentifiersRKDimages ID: 53707
The Met object ID: 437394

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, also known as Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer, is an oil-on-canvas painting by Rembrandt.

It was painted in 1653, as a commission from Don Antonio Ruffo, from Messina in Sicily, who did not request a particular subject.

Aristotle, world-weary, looks at the bust of blind, humble Homer, on which he rests one of his hands. This has variously been interpreted as the man of sound, methodical science deferring to Art, or as the wealthy and famous philosopher, wearing the jeweled belt given to him by Alexander the Great, envying the life of the poor blind bard.[1] It has also been suggested that this is Rembrandt's commentary on the power of portraiture.[1]

The interpretation of methodical science deferring to art is discussed at length in Rembrandt's Aristotle and Other Rembrandt Studies.[1] The author notes that Aristotle's right hand (traditionally the favored hand), which rests on the bust of Homer, is both higher and painted in lighter shades than the left hand on the gold chain given to him by Alexander.

The exact subject being portrayed in this portrait has been challenged in the book by Simon Schama titled Rembrandt's Eyes, applying the scholarship of Paul Crenshaw.[2] Schama presents a substantial argument that it was the famous ancient Greek painter Apelles who is depicted in contemplation by Rembrandt and not Aristotle.[3]

It was purchased in 1961 for $2.3 million by the Metropolitan Museum of Art[4] in New York City, USA. At the time this was the highest amount ever paid for any picture at public or private sale.[5] This inspired the American artist Otis Kaye to critique the sale (and by extension the power of money in art) with his own painting "Heart of the Matter" which is held at the Art Institute of Chicago.[6]

During the renovation of the Rembrandt wing of the Metropolitan Museum, the painting was retitled in November 2013 as Aristotle with a Bust of Homer.

The painting forms the central theme of Joseph Heller's 1988 novel Picture This.


  1. ^ a b c Held, Julius (1969). Rembrandt's Aristotle and Other Rembrandt Studies. Princeton University Press.
  2. ^ Schama, Simon (1999). Rembrandt's Eyes. Knopf, p. 720.
  3. ^ Schama, pp. 582–591.
  4. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aristotle with a Bust of Homer". Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  5. ^ Knox, Sanka (1961-11-16). "Museum Gets Rembrandt for 2.3 Million". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  6. ^ "Art Institute of Chicago: Heart of the Matter". Retrieved 2018-09-22.

External links[edit]