Egbert van Heemskerck, 'Heraclitus and Democritus'

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Dated 1695
Oil on copper
Signed EHK
15.2 cm
18.8 cm

See also: Heraclitus and Democritus, John Smith (1652 - 1743) after Egbert van Heemskerck, Collection National Portrait Gallery Londen (inv. no. NPG D11854).

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This painting is by Egbert van Heemskerck (1634/35 - 1704), dated 1695. It portrays Heraclitus and Democritus, two philosphers studying mankind, with a globe between them. The youthful Democritus is laughing about life while the older Heraclitus could only cry about it. The depiction of the theme of the laughing and crying philospoher has a long tradition. It was popular in seventeenth century painting, and Van Heemskerck wasn't the only artist portraying this theme: famous artists like Peter Paul Rubens, Jan van Bijlert and Dirck van Baburen had already painted this subject earlier. The English publisher John Smith was inspired by Van Heemskerck's paintings. He published several engravings after his work at the end of the seventeenth century. Among those engravings is one of after this painting of Heraclitus and Democritus, now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London (inv. no. NPG D11854).

Egbert van Heemskerck was born in Haarlem. Unfortunately it is unknown where he was educated. He married in 1654 and according to written sources he left for Italy the following year. He stayed in Italy for six years and then he returned to the Netherlands. In 1670 he left for England, where he stayed until his death in 1704. His son, Egbert van Heemskerck the Younger, also became a painter in England. 


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