Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Age

‘So The Soul Is As The Hand’ - A New Interpretation of Rembrandt's ‘Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer’

Golden Age Colloquium by prof. dr. Jürgen Müller (Technical University Dresden)

14Dec2016 15:30 - 17:00


Rembrandt's Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of his most studied paintings. Starting with Herbert von Einem in 1956, to Jonathan Bikker in the catalogue of the recent exhibition on the late Rembrandt, important interpretations have been given. Julius Held focused on the aspect of productive melancholy. Walter Liedtke emphasized the implicit evaluation of the senses and the ongoing paragone debate. Paul Crenshaw formulated doubts about the identity of the represented man asking whether he is not Apelles rather than Aristotle.

After having presented a critical assessment of the existing interpretations the lecture endeavours to answer two questions. First: Is there any literary source to identify the represented person? Second: What kind of narrative can we find in the picture? Finally In opposition to Liedtke I will argue that Rembrandt refuses to answer the question regarding the superiority of sight over touch but aims instead to show that the hand is a mediator between all the senses as Aristotle wrote in De anima.


Jürgen Müller holds the chair of Early Modern and Modern Art History at the Technical University of Dresden. He studied art history at the universities of Bochum, Pisa, Paris and Amsterdam. Since then he has worked as an art critic, curator and visiting professor in Berlin, Paris, Bordeaux and Marburg. He has published and edited several books on the Beham brothers, Bruegel, Goltzius, Karel van Mander and Rembrandt. His latest books are Der sokratische Künstler. Studien zu Rembrandts Nachtwache (Brill 2015), Pieter Bruegel d. Ä. und das Theater der Welt (DKV 2014) and Favorite TV shows. The top shows of the last 25 years (TASCHEN 2015). His main research interests are early German and early Netherlandish painting, the art of Mannerism, paintings of the Golden Age, as well as photography and film.


Referee: Thijs Weststeijn

Location: Bushuis (Oost-Indisch Huis), VOC-zaal

  • Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis

    Kloveniersburgwal 48 | 1012 CX Amsterdam
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