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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.

Event details of ‘So The Soul Is As The Hand’ - A New Interpretation of Rembrandt's ‘Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer’
Date 14 December 2016
Time 15:30 -17:00
Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis
Room Location: Bushuis (Oost-Indisch Huis), VOC-zaal
Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Age

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

Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis

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

Kloveniersburgwal 48
1012 CX Amsterdam