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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Head of a weeping bearded man; slightly to right, looking to front. c.1603 Pen and brown ink, with some grey-green wash in the background

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1603 (circa)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 320 millimetres
    • Width: 197 millimetres (upper l corner made up)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed in pen by a later hand, lower left, "Rubens".
  • Curator's comments

    Perhaps related to Democritus and Heraclitus, painted for the Duke of Lerma (whereabouts unknown), c1603. The 1990 Treasures Exhibition label text: Probably intended to represent Heraclitus, the 'weeping' philosopher and scientist of Ephesus who lived in the 5th century B.C. The drawing, an early work of c. 1603, may be a study for a now lost painting by Rubens which showed Heraclitus with Democritus, his philosophical counterpart who laughed at the human condition. Bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight, 1824

    Rowlands, Rubens: Drawings & Sketches, BMP, 1977
    This is most probably intended to represent Heraclitus of Ephesus, philosopher and scientist, who lived about 500 BC.
    It is quite likely that this is a preparatory study for the head of the weeping Heraclitus in a painting of Democritus and Heraclitus, executed for the Duke of Lerma on the occasion of the artist's first visit to Spain in 1603. This work, whose present whereabouts is not known, is not to be confused with a pair of paintings of the two philosophers, now in Madrid, which were mistakenly assumed to have been originally joined together. Certainly the vigorous untidy character of the penwork speaks strongly in favour of an early date and is consistent with its being for the Duke I of Lerma's painting. The paintings in Madrid are, in fact, much later in date. They belong to the end of Ruben's career and hung in the Torre de la Parada with Velasquez's 'Aesop' and 'Menippus'.
    The opposed attitudes to the human condition of these two philosophers were a contrast attractive to the Renaissance world. This was aptly taken up by Robert Burton, an almost exact contemporary of Rubens in his 'Anatomy of Melancholy'. In its foreword, addressed "to the Mischievously idle reader", we find the following lines of verse:

    "Weep, Heraclitus, for this wretched age,
    Nought dost thou see that is not base and sad;
    Laugh on, Democritus, thou laughing sage,
    Nought dost thou see that is not vain and bad.
    Let one delight in tears and one in laughter,
    Each shall find his occasion ever after".


  • Bibliography

    • Hind 1915-31 101 bibliographic details
    • Rowlands 1977 15 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Flemish Roy XVIIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1977 BM, Rubens drawings and sketches, no.15 1990 April-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D (no cat.)
    2005/6 Oct-Jan, London, National Gallery, 'Rubens: A Master in the Making'
    2009/10 Nov-Jan BM, P&D, 'Rubens Drawings' (no cat.)

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Head of a weeping bearded man; slightly to r, looking to front. c.1603 Pen and brown ink, with some grey-green wash in the background


Head of a weeping bearded man; slightly to r, looking to front. c.1603 Pen and brown ink, with some grey-green wash in the background

Image description



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