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Quentin Massys - Erasmus of Rotterdam

by Alexandra Tuschka

The man lowers his face thoughtfully. His gaze leads out of the right edge of the picture into the distance. His hands have made themselves comfortable on an open book, his right hand begins to write. What thought is the great thinker Erasmus of Rotterdam pursuing here? The man's robe is black and sober. Not only did this correspond to contemporary male fashion - this choice of clothing also emphasizes the sitter's focus on inner values.

On the shelves in the background, a few books are stacked in a disorderly manner. These belong to the indispensable utensils of an intellectual. This painting is at the beginning of a series of portraits of the great humanist and had a lasting impact on his subsequent representations. He is usually shown as an intellectual or man of letters writing or studying.

Erasmus also met the German artist Albrecht Dürer - who immortalized him in 1526, and thus about 10 years after Mattys in an engraving. The saying on the panel on the left emphasizes: The better picture of him is shown by his writings. And thus invite the viewer to deal with his work.

Quentin Massys - Erasmus of Rotterdam

Oil on wood, 1517, 59 x 47 cm, Palazzo Barberini in Rome


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