Alexander and his Doctor

The story of Alexander the Great and his doctor, Philip, is told by many ancient authors including Plutarch in his 'Parallel Lives'. Plutarch relates how, after Alexander fell ill, one of his generals wrote him a letter warning that Philip, Alexander's doctor and old friend, had been corrupted by the Persian enemy. Alexander nevertheless trusted Philip and fearlessly drank the medicine which the latter had prepared.

Le Sueur shows Alexander drinking as Philip indignantly reads the accusatory letter. This example of stoicism and the value of friendship was particularly appreciated by French critics during the 17th and 18th centuries both for its moral and artistic qualities: the picture's rigorous composition echoes the seriousness of the subject, the character's gestures are shown with the clarity that narrative painting of the day required, yet the painting's colour harmonies are unashamedly appealing.

Key facts

Artist dates
1616 - 1655
Full title
Alexander and his Doctor
Date made
about 1648-9
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
96 x 96 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought with the support of a number of gifts in wills, 1999
Inventory number
Location in Gallery