Completed Continental European before 1800 8 Could this work be by Dutch painter Johannes Moreelse (1603–1634)?

Topic: Artist

Could this painting be by Johannes Moreelse?

The painting shows exactly the same composition as the work in National Trust's Knole, Kent ( That painting has been attributed to Johannes Moreelse (rather than Paulus Moreelse), first, tentatively, by Albert Blankert ('Heraclitus en Democritus', Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 18 [1967], p.31, no.33, fig.21), and subsequently, more firmly, by Benedict Nicolson (The Burlington Magazine, 116 [1974], pp.620–23).

Bart Cornelis, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade Audrey King,

This painting is now listed as by Johannes Moreelse (after 1602–1634) (attributed to).

This amend will appear on the new version of the Your Paintings website in January 2016. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Toby Campbell,

From my initial glance at both the Knole painting and the Sheffield painting I would say that the version at Knole is an inferior copy of the Sheffield painting. Johan Moreelse does seem to be an extremely strong candidate as it appears to be the same model in his signed painting of Heraclitus in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht.

Toby Campbell,

There is also the possibility that this is a pendant to the Democritus in The Mauritshuis which is nearly the same canvas size.

This is an exciting discovery of a rare painter and a very useful brief discussion. It seems clear, as Bart Cornelis has proposed, that the Sheffield painting is by Johannes Moreelse. It certainly seems of higher quality than the painting of the same subject at Knole. The existence of both the 'Heraclitus' and the 'Democritus' at Knole suggests that Toby Campbell is right to propose that the Sheffield picture is a pendant to the 'Democritus' in the Mauritshuis, which is almost exactly the same size and is signed in monogram. It would be helpful to know if the the Sheffield painting is also signed.

Museums Sheffield,

We have checked the work here in Sheffield and we are not able to find a signature I'm afraid. However, the work is glazed and in need of cleaning, therefore it is not certain whether it is not signed, or that the signature is merely obscured.

If there is a monogram, I think you will find it easier to spot if you remove the frame and glass. Of course there may not be one and there is in any case no reason to doubt the attribution.

Menno Jonker,

Very interesting painting and discussion. It is an appealing idea to ascribe this painting of Heraclitus to Johannes Moreelse, especially since his known oeuvre is very small. The theme of Democritus and Heraclitus as pendants in particular was relatively popular by the Utrecht caravaggists and style and composition of the painting strongly relate to this circle.

The suggestion made by Toby Campbell that the Sheffield Heraclitus forms a pendant together with Moreelse Democritus from 1630 in the Mauritshuis (inv. 705) makes sense, due to the measurements. It looks like the dark background is from a later date and needs cleaning.

While checking my archive of classical philosophers, one thing that might be a problem to pair these two is the difference in globes. Painters are pretty consistent in pairing the weeping and the laughing philosopher with two symmetrical globes in type, size and angle (see for instance Ter Brugghens couple at the Rijksmuseum, inv. SK-A-2783 and 2784). The globe by the Mauritshuis Democritus is in this case bigger and contains a ring.

In general: to investigate in the Sheffield Heraclitus together with the Mauritshuis Democritus in context of the striking couple at the Centraal Museum would certainly help to learn more about Johannes Moreelse's oeuvre, which deserves a lot more attention.

Jade Audrey King,

The collection say: 'we would be happy for the painting to be listed as ‘attributed to’ Johannes Moreelse, pending further investigation into whether it has a monogram.'