Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Amid a wooded landscape strewn with ancient monuments and human and animal skulls, two men and a youth ponder the state of the world. The men are Democritus and Heraclitus, ancient Greek thinkers who represent opposing temperaments and philosophical perspectives. Democritus, “the Laughing Philosopher,” found amusement in human follies, while Heraclitus was a loner and misanthrope, earning the epithet “the Weeping Philosopher.” Tiepolo created this luminous scene by layering brown washes of different intensities and leaving areas of paper untouched to serve as highlights.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Italian, 1696–1770
Democritus and Heraclitus laughing and sorrowing over the follies of the world, 1742–43
Black chalk, with pen and black and brown ink, and brush and brown washes, heightened with white opaque watercolor
Richard and Mary L. Gray, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by Jamie Stukenberg, Professional Graphics Inc.