A Geographer

"Master of the Lute Player" (Italian, 17th century)
c. 1610-20
Oil on canvas 
51 x 38-1/8 in. (129.5 x 96.8 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

Few artists garnered such a large international following as the Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio. His work was highly contro-versial, being both criticized for its vulgarity and praised for its unrelenting naturalism. His followers—known as Caravaggisti—included artists from France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain who admired Caravaggio’s anecdotal genre scenes of contemporary subjects and his characteristic use of the half-length portrait.

In this study, an anonymous man appears to address us from behind his desk, and is surrounded by the implements of his vocation: a terrestrial globe, inkwell, quill pen and open books. He was a geographer, or perhaps a cosmographer, a scientist who studies the main features of the heavens and earth, including astronomy, geography and geology. He is dressed in a red doublet with stripes of gold braid, typical of Central or Eastern European dress. With his lips parted and head tilted, he appears to be engaged in an animated conversation with his portraitist.


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

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