Friday, April 10, 2009

Descartes Triumphs over Aristotle, 1650

A print of ca 1650, after a painting ascribed to Cornelis Holstein, portrays the philosopher René Descartes (1569--1650) in a well-appointed study, a study suited to a gentleman. He turns to face the viewer. Interrupted, he holds his pen above a manuscript, ready to resume writing, once his visitor has exited. To indicate Descartes' philosophical position, the artist shows him firmly placing his right foot on a hefty tome inscribed witht he author's name--Aristotle. Victors are often depicted performing a similar act, with the vanguished opponent stretched prone or bending over beneath the conqueror's foot or his horse's hoof.
Why have I chosen this image for the blog today? Quite simple. I am writing an essay about Rembrandt's 1653 painting of Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (MMA, NYC) and Cartesian philosophy is included in my historical narrative.

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