Aristotle with a Bust of Homer Rembrandt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns this commissioned painting that displays the influence of Caravaggio upon Rembrandt van Rijn

The skilled and aggressive use of lighting was the biggest trademark of the Italian artist's style and something that many other famous artists would incorporate into their own work. A more intelligent understanding of the impact of light across a facial portrait helped to bring a greater realism using his techniques.

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer was completed in 1653 and is sometimes also known as Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer. This large oil on canvas measures 143.5 cm (56.5 in) × 136.5 cm (53.7 in) making it a very substantial piece.

Don Antonio Ruffo was to commission Rembrandt for this piece, though did not actually specify a particular topic for the great master to cover. Rembrandt completed the painting around 1653 and whilst most still believe that it is indeed Aristotle, there have been some opinions expressed that it is indeed the famous ancient Greek painter Apelles.

The original was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1961 for a then-record price of $2.3 million. It would then be installed in their impressive Rembrandt wing, which contains amongst the finest collections of work by this Dutch master.

As Aristotle places his hand on the bust, some see this as science deferring to art. Alternatively, it maybe the wealthy envying the poor. There has been recent literature that examines specifically Rembrandt's use of Aristotle and other figures in his work, but we are still none the wiser as to the precise meaning of this particular composition.