The J. Paul Getty Museum

Solon before Croesus

Object Details


Solon before Croesus


Nikolaus Knüpfer (Dutch, about 1603 - 1655)




about 1650–1652


Oil on panel

Object Number:



61 × 89.9 cm (24 × 35 3/8 in.)

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Object Description

The sage Solon stands in the foreground at the base of the stairs leading to the dais. His humble dress, long beard, and admonishing gesture contrasts with the extravagantly dressed figure of the king who points dramatically at the riches before him. In this moralizing scene from Greek legend, the wealthy King Croesus calls an audience with Solon, an Athenian lawmaker and philosopher. After proudly displaying his immense wealth, the king asks Solon to name the happiest man he has ever met. Solon does not name Croesus, instead responding that he could call no man happy until his life was so judged at its end and that humble people were often more content than the wealthiest kings. This moralistic tale, extremely popular in 1600s Holland, reflected the culture's ambivalent attitudes toward wealth and consumption.

Nikolaus Knüpfer used light to draw attention to the confrontation between the two figures. King Croesus and his queen are bathed in a bright light that illuminates their exquisite finery, the white satin and gold tablecloth, and the succulent delicacies and gold wares on the table. Light also falls upon the solitary figure of Solon, accentuating his isolated position below in the stage-like setting. This composition's carefully planned design and lighting reveal Knüpfer's interest in contemporary Dutch theater.

1928 -

Private Dealer (Turin, Italy)

1951 - 1984

Emile E. Wolf (New York, New York), sold through Hoogsteder-Naumann, Ltd. (New York, New York) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

17th Century Paintings from the Low Countries (February 27 to March 27, 1966)
  • Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (Waltham), February 27 to March 27, 1966
Gods, Saints, and Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt (November 2, 1980 to July 19, 1981)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), November 2, 1980 to January 4, 1981
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit), February 16 to April 19, 1981
  • Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), May 18 to July 19, 1981
The Discovery of the Everyday: Seventeenth Century Dutch Paintings from the Wolf Collection (1982)
  • Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (Providence), 1982
  • The Chrysler Museum of Art (Norfolk), 1982
  • Tampa Museum of Art (Tampa), 1982

Plietzsch, Eduard. Holländische und flämische Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig: E. A. Seemann Verlag, 1960), pp. 33-34, fig. 32.

Kuznetzov, Juri. "Nicolaus Knüpfer (Biographie, themes et sources de la création artistique, catalogue des oeuvres)." Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Ermitage 8 (1965), p. 221, no. 113.

Gilbert, Creighton, ed. 17th Century Paintings from the Low Countries, exh. cat. (Waltham: Poses Institute of Fine Arts, with Rose Art Museum, 1966), pp. 18-19, ill.

Kuznetzow, Juri. "Nikolaus Knupfer (1603?-1655)." Oud Holland 88, no. 3 (1974), p. 199-200, fig. 17, no. 112.

Blankert, Albert, et al., eds. Gods, Saints and Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt, exh. cat. (Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1980), pp. 276-77, no. 82, ill.

Robinson, Franklin W., ed. The Discovery of the Everyday: Seventeenth Century Dutch Paintings from the Wolf Collection, exh. cat. (Norfolk: The Chrysler Museum, 1982), unpaginated, no. 25, ill.

"Acquisitions/1984." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 13 (1985), p. 208, no. 133, ill.

Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986), p. 140, fig. 202.

"Part II: Paintings Sold in the Past." In Otto Naumann, Ltd. Inaugural Exhibition of Old Master Paintings, 12 January-1 March 1995, exh. cat. (New York: Otto Naumann, Ltd., 1995), p. 148, ill.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 67, ill.