Rembrandt Paints Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer

Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer is a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn.

It was painted in 1653, as a commission from Don Antonio Ruffo, from Messina in Sicily, who did not know the particular topic. It was purchased in 1961 for $2.3 million by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, USA.

Aristotle, world-weary, looks at the bust of blind, humble Homer, on which he rests one of his hands. This has variously been interpreted as the man of sound, methodical science deferring to Art, or as the wealthy and famous philosopher envying the poor blind bard. It has also been suggested that this is Rembrandt's commentary on the power of portraiture

Rembrandt had one foreign patron, a Sicilian nobleman, who asked him to paint a philosopher. The request came at a time when Rembrandt had become embroiled in serious financial trouble, and this commission seems to have sparked off some deep inner response. The combination of his personal anxieties and the idea of philosophy drew from Rembrandt one of his greatest masterpieces, in which he contrasts two ways of being a genius.