A Scholar Expounding
c. 1610-20
"Master of the Lute Player" (Italian, 17th century)
On View

With parted lips and furrowed eyebrows, this scholar appears to be caught in an engaging discussion at his desk. His rhetorical gesture of pinching his left index finger with his right hand signifies that he is explaining an idea or theory. The celestial globe, quill, inkstand and stack of books evidence his passion for knowledge. Other details of his disheveled appearance, such as his dirty fingernails, untied collar and unraveling clothes suggest he is disinterested by trivial, material matters.

The contrast between bright light and darkness in this painting is known as chiaroscuro. The technique was made famous by the Italian painter Caravaggio in the early 17th century and was closely emulated by many of his followers. Although this painter’s identity remains unknown, art historians connect A Scholar Expounding to a portrait of a lute player from the same period. These works were likely created by the same artist, who is now simply referred to as the “Master of the Lute Player.”


  • Artist Name: "Master of the Lute Player" (Italian, 17th century)
  • Title: A Scholar Expounding
  • Date: c. 1610-20
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 51 x 38-1/8 in. (129.5 x 96.8 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1968.11.03.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

Morris I. Kaplan, Chicago (sale London, Sotheby's, 12 June 1968, lot 20, ill., to);
The Norton Simon Foundation.

[on loan]

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969-09-22 to

[on loan]

  • Brooklyn Museum, 1968-08-01 to 1969-01-31

[on loan]

  • Detroit Institute of Arts, 1974-06-12 to 1975-10

Loan to the Permanent Collection, The Brookyln Museum

  • Brooklyn Museum, 1968-08-08 to 1969-10-06
  • Nicolson, Benedict, The International Caravaggesque Movement. Lists of Pictures by Caravaggio and his Followers throughout Europe from 1590 to 1650., 1979, no. 11 p. 38
  • B. NIcolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement: List of Pictures by Cravaggio and his Followers Throughout Europe from 1590-1650, 1979, no. 11 p. 38
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 38
  • Gianni Papi and Cecco Del Caravaggio, Cecco del Caravaggio, 2001, fig. 68 P. 43, 44, 49, n. 33
  • Gianni Papi and Palazzo Reale Di Milano, Il Genio Degli Anonimi: Maestri Caravaggeschi a Roma E a Napoli, 2005, pp. 51-52, D3
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 472 p. 302
  • Koelsch, William A., Classical Geography: Unearthing Historical Geography's Forgotten Past, 2012, Fig. 1 p. 5
  • Baldi, Pio, Laura Cibrario, and Fabiola Jatta, Aperti per restauri: Il restauro di Venere e Amore del Guercino e dell'Allegoria della Fortuna di Guido Reni, 2015,
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