Velazquez's: Aesop  (Frontpage) (more on Velazquez)   (Thumbnail Index)


Diego Velázquez  (1599-1660) Spanish court painter
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Oil on canvas
179 x 94 cm
 Jpg: Web Gallery 
Aesop (E sops) of "Aesop's Fables" fame -- the animal stories told to illustrate human virtues and faults. He was suppose to have been a Greek slave around the time of 620-560 B.C. though many scholars today doubt if he ever really existed. The stories supposedly came to him from the East which he made popular and were passed down by word of mouth. The first collection of stories was put together by the Athenian tyrant Demetrius two hundred years after Aesop's death and as the years went by, more and more stories were credited to him. If it was a good amimal fable, it must be an Aesop's Fable.

The man has a mythology almost as great as his stories.  Socrates made poems of him. The biographer Plutarch put him as one of the "Seven Wise Men" or "Seven Sages" and serving in the councel of the 6th century Lydian King Croesus.

It was said that his third owner set him free because of his wit and wisdom and that he was killed by the people of Delphi (while working for the king) when he was sent there to divide money among the people. When he arrived, he found them dishonest and refused to give them any. For his efforts they threw him off a cliff. It is said that a terrible plague befell the people as a result. 

Velázquez rendition is of a very simple man whom has seen a hard life -- etched in the face and eyes with wishdom and intellect. He stands there, a former slave, with his fables under his arm as if he is still giving council to kings. 

In Velázquez's case it would be King Philip IV of Spain who was Velázquez's patron.

John Singer Sargent 
Head of Aesop, Copy after Velázquez


Johann Liss, German (c. 1597-1631)

The Satyr and the Peasant
c. 1623/1626
(Aesop's story)

John Singer Sargent

Peter A. B. Widener
(behind the figure is The Satyr and the Peasant
owned by Peter Widener)


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2003 all rights reserved
Created 3/5/2003