In April 22nd 1603, the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens arrived to the port of Alicante. He was sent in an official mission by the Duke of Mantua to honor Phillip II and his minister the Duke of Lerma, with presents that included a collection of Italian paintings. During his trip to Valladolid he had to endure a horrible trip under constant rain that damaged some paintings. To substitute some of them, Rubens painted this canvas representing philosophers Democritus and Heraclitus. Both refer, by their line of thought and way of life, to opposite human temperaments: Democritus, bon viveur and optimistic and Heraclitus, dark in his writings, melancholic and not very tolerant. Rubens is going to portray them looking at the spectator, leaning towards an Earth globe where we can see northern Europe and the oceans around it. Democritus with a cheerful face and a symbolic red cloak, indicates Heraclitus, with somber gesture and black robes. The panting shows the typical features of the baroque painting: the speed of the brush-stroke, the ardent colors, and the pomposity of shapes or the theatrical composition. Until the beginning of the 19th century the work stayed within the descendants of the Duke of Lerma, from where it went to private English collections until 1999, when the Spanish government bought it from the auctions house Christie's of London.


  • Title: Democritus and Heraclitus
  • Creator Lifespan: 1577 - 1640
  • Creator Nationality: Spanish
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Amberes
  • Creator Birth Place: Siegen
  • Date Created: 1603
  • place of origin: Valladolid
  • Physical Dimensions: w125 x h96 cm
  • Painter: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: CERES

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