Gerard van Honthorst: The Steadfast Philosopher

The Steadfast Philosopher: Gerard van Honthorst

The Steadfast Philosopher (1623) by Dutch Golden Age painter Gerard van Honthorst is an allegory of temptation and the counteracting force of abstinence. A woman, a personification of the erotic allure of the pleasures of the flesh, is nude to the waist and imploringly reaches to the shoulder of the scholar with a smile.

The scholar resists the proposition with a raised left hand that restrains the woman. He maintains a quill in his right hand and averts his gaze. The light falls directly from the left onto the woman and this, combined with the crumpling of the table cloth, marks a potential disturbance of the scholar’s contemplation. At this moment, the scholar adopts a Stoic attitude, a dispassionate separation from desire.

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