The zucchetto or pileolus is a small, round skullcap worn by members of the Roman Catholic clergy. The color red is reserved for the zucchettos of cardinals. (The pope’s skullcap is white, and those worn by archbishops and bishops are purple).
The suggestion that the two men represent the apostles Peter and Paul was first made by Christian Tümpel in his discussion of Rembrandt van Rijn’s Two Scholars Disputing, 1628 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne). Christian Tümpel, “Studien zur Ikonografie der Historien Rembrandts,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 20 (1969): 182–87. Tümpel, however, solely focused on the first of the two visits, when Paul stayed at Peter’s house in Jerusalem for fifteen days (Galatians 1:18). The dispute at the heart of this painting actually took place during their second meeting (Galatians 2:11–14).
Galatians 2:11–14. Click here for a detailed description of the dispute.
For the seventeenth-century debate on tolerance, see Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806, The Oxford History of Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1995), 502–3. Episcopius (1583–1643) was born Simon Bischop, but is known by the Latinized version of his last name.
Click here for the object page of the National Gallery of Victoria.
For a discussion of Rembrandt’s Two Scholars Disputing in Melbourne, see Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 1, 1625–1631, ed. Josua Bruyn et al. (The Hague, Boston, and London, 1982), 159–68, no. A 113, repro. See page 165, repro., for Rembrandt’s Study in Red and Black Chalk (Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin), on which the figure in the foreground of the Leiden Collection painting is based.
The Rembrandt Research Project’s discussion of the Melbourne painting accepts Christian Tümpel’s interpretation that the two men are the apostles Peter and Paul, representing the Jews and the Gentiles respectively (pp. 166–67). Neither the Rembrandt Research Project nor Tümpel, however, connected the historical dispute in Antioch to the theological debate swirling around the Dutch Republic in the 1620s.
Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, 6 vols. (Landau, 1983), 4:2948, states that “according to Gerson [this painting is] a Dou-like adaptation of the Melbourne painting.”
Rolf Fritz, Sammlung Becker, vol. 1, Gemälde alter Meister (Dortmund, 1967), no. 77, repro., as Elias and Elisa by Rembrandt, ca. 1629. Fritz reproduced an aquatint of the painting in reverse, inscribed “Les Docteurs,” by A. Bissel, ca. 1790–1810, as comparative figure to this painting’s entry. “Les Docteurs” in the caption refers to the role of the Book of Kings prophets Elias (Elijah) and his disciple Elisa (Elisha) as Doctors of the Church. The full inscription on the aquatint reads: “Peint par Rembrandt gravé par A. Bissell. Les Docteurs. – Du Cabinet de Monsieur le Baron de Villiez – à Mannheim chez Dom: Artaria.”
Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 1, 1625–1631, ed. Josua Bruyn et al. (The Hague, Boston, and London, 1982), 524–28, no. C513. One year later, Werner Sumowski placed the painting in the “School of Rembrandt” after the Melbourne painting of 1628. Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, 6 vols. (Landau, 1983), 4:2948, no. 1931.
Stichting Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings, vol. 4, Self-Portraits, ed. Ernst van de Wetering (Dordrecht, 2005), 596, 627–28, no. I C 513 / Br. 424.
Ronnie Baer did not include Two Old Men Disputing in her catalogue raisonné of Dou in 1990. See Ronni Baer, “The Paintings of Gerrit Dou (1613–1675)” (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1990).
Thanks to Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. for pointing out the resemblances with this painting by Lievens. (Lloyd DeWitt, however, deems the Upton House painting to be “closer to Rembrandt or Dou than Lievens.” Personal communication, 27 May 2013). The Upton House painting is listed as National Trust Inventory Number 446728. According to notes from the National Trust, dendrochronology indicates that the oak panel came from a tree felled after 1660. However, more recent dendrochronological analysis by Ian Tyer indicates that insufficient information exists about the wood rings to determine the felling date of this panel.
Peter Klein, dendrochronological report, 14 January 2007; Ian Tyers, dendrochronological report, September 2008.
Infrared photographs were taken at 780nm, 850nm, and 1000nm.