top of page

Donato Bramante - Heraclitus and Democritus

by Alexandra Tuschka

As "The laughing and the crying philosopher" the two so different minds of the two ancient philosophers are often - sweepingly, but aptly - summarized. The globe in the center is an iconographically anchored symbol, and thus also stands quite concretely for the different "world views". This globe of the earth still shows the geographical ignorance during the time of humanism - Africa is here connected with Antarctica. The relief in the background refers to antiquity .

On the left is the depressed Heraclitus. There are even some tears on his cheeks. He weeps for the transience of all life and condemns the superficial way of life of many people. He has his hands folded bitterly in his lap. Democritus on the right looks more cheerful. He has placed a hand on the open book and wants to discuss with his interlocutor about what he has read. The open posture and the hand pointing to it invite nonverbally to this. Of course, this form of representation of the two crying and laughing is rather unsuitable as propagation of their teaching and strongly typified.

Donato Bramante - Heraclitus and Democritus

Oil on canvas, 1481, Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan


bottom of page