The Cynic Philosopher Crates

Accession Number

The Cynic Philosopher Crates

Domenico Fetti

Object Creation Date
circa 1600-1624

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

73 ¼ in x 56 ¾ in x 2 ¾ in (186.06 cm x 144.14 cm x 6.99 cm);73 ¼ in x 56 ¾ in x 2 ¾ in (186.06 cm x 144.14 cm x 6.99 cm);67 in x 50 in (170.18 cm x 127 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Subject matter
This painting is a portrait of the Greek philosopher, Crates of Thebes. The writings of biographer, Diogenes Laertius, relate that Crates gave up his wealth to devote himself to the Cynic philosophy. The Cynics embraced poverty and hardship and spoke against social conventions which they believed were an impediment to living in accord with nature. Crates was nicknamed, "Door Opener" from his habit of entering houses to offer advice. A saying attributed to him was, " That a man ought to study philosophy, up to the point of looking on generals and donkey drivers in the same light."

Here, Fetti has painted the philosopher, dressed in ragged clothing, as if he is speaking directly to the viewer. Crates is pointing to some coins on the ground beside him, perhaps a reference to his disgarded wealth or his life of poverty. The meaning of the initials carved on his bench is not known.

Physical Description
This painting shows a man seated on a bench, facing the viewer. He leans forward slightly and his right hand reaches across his body to point toward a group of coins on the ground. He is dressed in tattered clothing and his feet are bare. The bench where he is seated is inscribed with the letters: P. Q. P. C. /T. T. This is an outdoor scene with open sky in the background and some vegetation on a ledge above him, but there are no details to indicate the exact location. Another man is shown in the background at the right, walking hunched over and using a staff. There is a strong contrast between dark and light in this painting. The figure of the walking man and the dark shapes of buildings are outlined against the light backdrop of the sky. A strong warm light, from the left side of the painting, highlights the knees, hand and upper body of the seated man.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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men (male humans)

& Author Notes

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