Arts & Culture

Portrait of a Young Scholar

Jan van Scorel1531

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The young scholar wears a red biretta and a black paltrok, a loose-fitting garment worn with a sash around the waist. He has just used his quill to write a line on the sheet of paper he holds in his hand. It bears a Latin inscription, which can be seen in mirror image through the paper: ‘Oia dat dominus non habet ergo mius,’ meaning ‘The Lord gives all, He possesses no less for it’. Above and to the left of the boy’s head is the date 1531; to the right are the Latin words, ‘Aetatis 12’, ‘aged 12’. An aphorism in Latin appears in the lower section. The artist spaced the first few words widely, leaving insufficient room for the remainder of the text, with the result that the last part of the inscription is cramped. It reads, ‘Quis dives? Qui nil cupit. Quis pauper? Avar’: ‘Who is rich? He who covets nothing. Who is poor? The miser’. The saying comes from a book by the distinguished humanist Erasmus. These wise words were intended to guide the scholar on his journey through life. The unsigned painting is widely accepted as a work by Jan van Scorel, though some art historians attribute it to Scorel’s pupil Maarten van Heemskerck, who painted similar portraits in the same period. The delicate style, however, tips the balance in favour of Van Scorel.

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Details

  • Title: Portrait of a Young Scholar
  • Date Created: 1531
  • Theme: Portrait
  • Physical Dimensions: w350 x h465 cm (Without frame)
  • Painter: Jan van Scorel
  • Original Title: Portret van een Jonge scholier
  • Additional Artwork Information: In 1511-1512, Erasmus described a number of practical tips for learning sayings by heart. We read: "What I am now about to say is a detail, but still worth considering and it will help you in no small way in things you should know, but which are difficult to remember (...) You should note down such matters in a short and concise way on schematic cards that you hang on the wall of your room, where they are always in sight, even when you are doing something else. You should also write down certain pithy, concise remarks, such as anecdotes, proverbs, aphorisms... You can also attach some of them to doors and walls or even to windows; in this way, you can see all your reminders constantly and everywhere.' Van Scorel's schoolboy has just made such a reminder. The Latin saying he has written on a scrap of paper can be seen through the paper in a mirror image. This saying can be translated as: 'The Lord gives everything, but nonetheless possesses no less.' Another saying is shown on the balustrade under the portrait. The translation is: 'Who is rich? He who covets nothing. Who is poor? The miser.' This classic saying is taken from a book compiled by Erasmus. By the time Van Scorel produced this painting, more than forty reprints of this book of sayings had appeared.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Acquired 1864, http://collectie.boijmans.nl/en/disclaimer/
  • External Link: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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