Aristotle's Laughing Students
Attend one of Aristotle’s lectures at the Lyceum, clad in red, green, pink or blue flowing robes. This beautiful mid-14th century illustration by Laurentius de Voltolina (he signed it lower right-hand corner), painted in Bologna, is now in Berlin. It was created for a manuscript of the book Liber Ethicorum by German medieval Aristotle scholar Henricus de Alemannia. One scholar says that the image represents Henricus, but the medieval professor seems to have modelled his idea of a proto-university teaching model on his ancient exemplar’s Lyceum, so the distinction matters little.
Aristotle himself looks rather serious, but the variety of expressions on his students’ faces is a delight. Some laugh, several pay intense attention, some write notes, some dispute (or gossip) intently, at least two are fast asleep and at least one is a woman. A vivid glimpse into the medieval lecture hall, refracted through an imagining of another one nearly two millennia earlier.