Collection Online
oil on wood panel
72.4 × 59.7 cm
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1936
Gallery location
17th Century & Flemish Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

This painting reveals the individuality and brilliance that distinguished the young Rembrandt as Leiden’s finest artist. There has been much speculation as to the subject of this painting. It has been suggested that the two men are philosophers, possibly Hippocrates and Democritus, or the apostles Peter and Paul. However, in 1641, the painting was referred to in the will of Jacques de Gheyn III, a friend of Rembrandt, simply as ‘two little old men [who] are seated and disputing’. The presence of objects associated with learning indicates that the two are in earnest discussion, perhaps on matters pertaining to religion, life and death.