The boy depicted by Jan van Scorel in this painting is twelve years old. His age is given at top right: 'AETATIS 12'; the date 1531 is given at bottom left. He is a pupil of the Latin school, the predecessor of the current grammar school. At this school, a large part of the knowledge of Latin was taught by learning classical sayings by heart.
Maerten van Heemskerck studied between 1527 and 1529 with Jan van Scorel in Haarlem, who had returned from Italy several years previously. Subsequently, in 1532, Van Heemskerck himself left for Italy. In 1537, Van Heemskerck returned to Haarlem.
material and technique: oil on panel
kind of object: painting
creditline: Aankoop / Purchase: 1864
inventory number: 1797 (OK)
In 1511-1512, Erasmus described a number of practical tips for learning sayings by heart. We read: "What I am now about to say is a detail, but still worth considering and it will help you in no small way in things you should know, but which are difficult to remember (...) You should note down such matters in a short and concise way on schematic cards that you hang on the wall of your room, where they are always in sight, even when you are doing something else. You should also write down certain pithy, concise remarks, such as anecdotes, proverbs, aphorisms... You can also attach some of them to doors and walls or even to windows; in this way, you can see all your reminders constantly and everywhere.' Van Scorel's schoolboy has just made such a reminder. The Latin saying he has written on a scrap of paper can be seen through the paper in a mirror image. This saying can be translated as: 'The Lord gives everything, but nonetheless possesses no less.' Another saying is shown on the balustrade under the portrait. The translation is: 'Who is rich? He who covets nothing. Who is poor? The miser.' This classic saying is taken from a book compiled by Erasmus. By the time Van Scorel produced this painting, more than forty reprints of this book of sayings had appeared.