Ludger tom Ring the Elder, Virgil the Poet, around 1538
The combination of pince-nez and a book can only lead to one conclusion, this must be a scientist in his study. But in the 16th century another prejudice adhered to the then modern nose spectacles, namely that only older people lost their sight. Additionally, the quartz glass used to aid eyesight was not cheap.
It is no one less than the Latin author Virgil who is studying an imposing looking leather-bound book. Ludger tom Ring not only depicts him orientally clothed as a representative of a foreign culture, but also underlines his status using just a few words running along the top of the balustrade, which translate as: “Virgil as the most famous of all poets”.
The scholar belongs to a group of 15 sibyls and prophets that originally hung in the choir of Münster cathedral, of which eight panels survive today. This apparently exotic pictorial array was a popular subject in the 16th century, where the prophecies of the heathen seeresses as well as those of the ancient prophets were made to relate to the life of Jesus, embedding them within Christian belief.