CRAYER, Gaspard de
(b. 1584, Antwerpen, d. 1669, Gent)

Alexander and Diogenes

Oil on canvas, 196 x 278 cm
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne

The meeting between the classical ruler Alexander the Great and the philosopher Diogenes had been illustrated in the 15th and 16th centuries but was also a popular subject in Italian and Netherlandish Baroque painting. Diogenes replied to Alexander, the conqueror of the world, when he asked him if he wanted anything: "Stand a little less between me and the sun." The contrast between the youthful and beautiful hero and the beggarly old man whose life exemplified asceticism is exploited in the composition and use of colours. The message of the painting is the meaninglessness of earthly power when confronted with ethical principles. The Antwerp artist de Crayer later became court painter to the archduke in Brussels. This work, reflecting his dealing with forms and themes in the work of Rubens, is one of his best.

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