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Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Ludovicus Nonnius

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Ludovicus Nonnius
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made about 1627
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 124.4 × 92.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1970
Inventory number NG6393
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of Ludovicus Nonnius
Peter Paul Rubens

The aged antiquarian and doctor Ludovicus Nonnius meets our gaze with watery eyes. With his slightly parted lips, he appears to engage us in discussing a passage from the book he holds, which is most likely his recently published text, Diaeteticon sive de recibaria, Libri IV. In this he argues for the importance of diet, his research based on the eating habits of the ancient Romans.

Nonnius was a friend of Rubens in Antwerp, and the artist shows his respect for the old scholar by painting him in fine clothing, seated in a stately chair and framed by grand classical architecture. The bust is identified in Greek lettering as Hippocrates (around 460–around 370 BC), the founder of medicine and a respected forebear of Nonnius in terms of his medical and classical learning. The books on the ledge emphasise the scholarly achievements of the sitter; the cover ties of two hang undone, suggesting that he has recently consulted them.

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