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Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger and follower of Jan Brueghel the Elder, Croesus and Solon

Key facts
Full title Croesus and Solon
Artist Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger and follower of Jan Brueghel the Elder
Artist dates active by 1604; died 1649; 1568 - 1625
Date made about 1610
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 31.1 × 22.9 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1882
Inventory number NG1132
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Croesus and Solon
Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger and follower of Jan Brueghel the Elder

This painting depicts a legendary moment recounted by the ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Plutarch: Solon, an Athenian philosopher and lawmaker, disputes with Croesus, King of Lydia, on the subject of happiness.

We see Solon approach Croesus as he passes through the ruler’s palace at Sardis, the Lydian capital. Croesus, who was famously wealthy, asked the philosopher to name the happiest man in the world, believing it to be himself. He was disappointed to hear Solon answer that three men had been happier than he. Solon argued that, contrary to Croesus’ belief, human happiness is dependent not on wealth but on the good fortune of a person’s life overall.

This detailed painting was made by two artists working in collaboration: the impressive interiors are by the architectural specialist Hendrick Steenwyck the Younger, while the figures and flowers are by an unknown artist working in the style of Jan Brueghel the Elder.

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