Diego Velazquez’s painting of Aesop, completed in 1638 and discovered alongside Rubens paintings around half a century later, is an exceptional piece of classical art. The historical significance of Aesop as a philosopher and storyteller is marked by his simple dignity that shows through the painting. Velázquez was ahead of his time with his photorealistic style that accurately depicts detail and nuances through light and shadow, known as tenebrism.
A slave who died a violent death and was a counsellor to the Lydian King Croesus, Aesop became more than just a symbol from ancient history. He gained importance in artistry with famous painters such as Velázquez when he was depicted alongside other symbolic figures such as Menippus and Mars in inventory lists for various museums. When it comes to Velázquez’s artistic portrayal of Aesop, one can see how the artist refrained from adding elements of glamour to the portrait but rather captured raw emotion while presenting him more towards historical accuracy.