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Eustache Le Sueur, Alexander and his Doctor

Key facts
Full title Alexander and his Doctor
Artist Eustache Le Sueur
Artist dates 1616 - 1655
Date made about 1648-9
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 96 × 96 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with the support of a number of gifts in wills, 1999
Inventory number NG6576
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Alexander and his Doctor
Eustache Le Sueur

Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) lies on a bed drinking medicine given to him by Philip, his doctor. Philip has been accused of treachery against his leader in a letter, which he is reading aloud to Alexander. Hands raised in horror, eyes widened, their companions wait to discover the truth. Alexander gazes towards Philip to acknowledge his innocence and loyalty, which is further proven as Alexander’s health improves. A male figure glances towards us to invite our reaction.

This scene is inspired by Plutarch’s Life of Alexander. He frequently appeared in seventeenth-century paintings and tapestries as a popular heroic figure, although this story was rarely depicted. A shield hanging above the bed reflects his military success as leader of Greece and an expanding empire.

Through most of the eighteenth century this painting was part of the Orléans collection, as one of the most celebrated works.

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