Object Image


A scowling man wearing a scholar's cap and brown gown appears before us. His drapery, wrapped tightly around him, has the smooth, solid look of a sculpted Roman bust. Half of his face is in shadow and the cold lighting emphasises his long, narrow nose, unkempt hair, unshaven face and furrowed brow.

The man thrusts a tablet bearing a Latin inscription towards us - translated, it reads: 'Keep silent, unless your speech is better than silence.' The phrase is taken from Stobaeus's Anthologia, a fifth-century collection of extracts from Greek authors. There has been much debate over the sitter's identity, but recent scholarship has shown that the figure was originally painted as a personification o...

c. 1645
Oil on canvas
116.3 x 94.0cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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