- Museum number
Print; portrait of Descartes, from original painting by Hals in Louvre.
Length: 27.50 centimetres
Width: 18.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Visual Analysis by Pauline Wholey 2019
portrait of Descartes
As one of the most recognizable images of Descartes, the portrait by Frans Hals is said to have captured the essence of this highly influential philosopher. As with many of Hal’s aristocratic subjects, Descartes body is subject to reason and civic virtue: he has a simple yet indifferent smile, rigid body position, and a piercing gaze towards the observer as if he is telling the viewer that he knows something we do not.
As mentioned by Darren Hynes, Descartes in the 17th century had a particular iconography that emphasised his identity as a philosopher: he has mastered the art of the gaze. By providing no emotional expression, Descartes leaves the viewer with the visual equivalent of his Cartesian writing: the importance of reason and scientific objectivism. Instead of the typical Hals character of laughter and invitation through the eyes, here the observer is left with a piercing gaze that renders Descartes as an enigmatic persona, providing a sense of mystery over this hidden knowledge kept from the observer.
Hynes, Darren. "Parallel Traditions in the Image of Descartes: Iconography, Intention, and Interpretation." The International History Review 32, no. 4 (2010): 575-97. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25762115.
- Not on display
- Latest: 3 (Jun 1995)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The Ilbert Collection of clocks, prints and other related material was destined to be sold at Christie's auction house on 6th-7th November 1958. As a result of the generous donation of funds by Gilbert Edgar CBE the sale was cancelled and the material purchased privately from the beneficiaries of the Ilbert Estate.
Ilbert's watches were then acquired with further funds from Gilbert Edgar CBE, public donations and government funds. These were then registered in the series 1958,1201.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.2713 (Ilbert Collection)