Grand-Livre. 1610–1618, fol. 178 [published in Rooses 1890], records the purchase of ten portraits, including a bust of Plato (possibly this picture), from Rubens by Balthasar I Moretus for the lump sum of 144 florins.
Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. 4, Antwerp, 1890, pp. 120, 238–39, no. 1032, catalogues a bust of Plato, painted by Rubens for Balthasar Moretus and sold to him between 1612 and 1616 for 14 florins 8 sous, possibly this picture; states that it appeared with a pendant picture of Seneca in the Verdussen sale of 1777, and gives later provenance information; under no. 882, publishes Ref. Moretus 1610–1618.
Theodor von Frimmel. Lexikon der Wiener Gemäldesammlungen. 2, Munich, 1914, p. 25, records the purchase of two busts by Rubens—one of Jupiter (possibly this picture) and another of Hercules—by Hans Gasser at the Noë sale in 1856.
Max Rooses. Le Musée Plantin Moretus. Antwerp, 1914, pp. 278–79, notes that of the ten portraits painted by Rubens for Balthasar Moretus, all but the busts of Plato (possibly this picture) and Seneca are still in the Museum Plantin-Moretus; states that the two pictures left the collection in the eighteenth century and next appeared in the Verdussen sale of 1777, at which they sold as a pair [sic?] for 260 florins.
"Art of 'Six Centuries and Six Nations' Shown." Art Digest 8 (January 15, 1934), p. 16, ill., as "Two Heads".
"Fine Exhibition of Old Masters Held at Lilienfeld's." Art News 32 (January 13, 1934), p. 4, dates it about 1615.
Art News 32 (January 20, 1934), ill. p. 12.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner. An Exhibition of Sixty Paintings and Some Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1936, unpaginated, no. 8, ill., as "Heads of Two Church Fathers," a study for the "Disputa" ["The Real Presence in the Holy Sacrament"] in the church of Saint Paul, Antwerp.
Ella S. Siple. "Art in America—The Rubens Exhibition at Detroit." Burlington Magazine 68 (May 1936), p. 243.
P. R. A. Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. "Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)." Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts Monthly Bulletin 10 (March 1940), unpaginated, no. 2.
Herman F[erdinand]. Bouchery and Frank van den Wijngaert. P. P. Rubens en het Plantijnsche Huis. Antwerp, 1941, pp. 21–22, 24–25, 28, states that the busts of Plato (possibly this picture) and Seneca left the Plantin-Moretus collection after 1658.
Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 31, no. 33, pl. 29, date it about 1609, and note that the head on the right appears as the Danube in "The Four Quarters of the Globe" (Gemäldegalerie, Vienna).
Antonio Morassi. "Alcune opere del Rubens a Genova." Emporium 105 (May 1947), p. 195.
Harry B. Wehle. "The de Groot Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 6 (June 1948), p. 265, ill., suggests that Rubens intended to portray a prophet or, perhaps, Saint Paul.
Frits Lugt. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du Nord: école flamande. Paris, 1949, vol. 2, p. 45, under no. 1171, identifies it as Saint Paul, and states that the drawing in the Louvre, possibly by an engraver such as Vorstermans, was made after the Museum's picture.
Erik Larsen. P. P. Rubens. Antwerp, 1952, p. 215, no. 16.
Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann in Olieverfschetsen van Rubens. Exh. cat., Museum Boymans. Rotterdam, 1953, p. 40, under no. 7, records a verbal opinion of 1953 by Ludwig Burchard, in which he repeats his statement of 1951 [see Ref.]
H[orst]. Gerson and E. H. ter Kuile. Art and Architecture in Belgium 1600 to 1800. Baltimore, , p. 184 n. 44.
L[udwig]. Burchard and R[oger].-A. d'Hulst. Rubens Drawings. Brussels, 1963, vol. 2, p. 41, under no. 21, call it "Plato," and date it about 1610; relate the picture to the drawing after Mantegna in Boston.
Drawings. Boston, 1968, p. 29, under no. 13, as "Plato".
Theodore Rousseau [Jr.]. "Ninety-eighth Annual Report of the Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Fiscal Year 1967–1968." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (October 1968), pp. 94–95, ill., as "Two Fathers of the Church".
Hans Vlieghe. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. August 21, 1972, feels that it was not made "in exclusive view" of the Antwerp altarpiece, but "rather independently so that it could be used for various purposes".
Didier Bodart. Rubens e l'incisione nelle collezioni del Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe. Exh. cat., Villa della Farnesina. Rome, 1977, p. 79, under no. 145, publishes Vorstermans's engraving as made after the portrait of Plato by Rubens for Balthsar Moretus, possibly this picture.
Michael Jaffé. Rubens and Italy. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977, pp. 42, 110 n. 9, states that the head on the left was painted out by Rubens and that the canvas is therefore not intentionally a study of two heads.
Matthias Winner in Peter Paul Rubens: Kritischer Katalog der Zeichnungen. Berlin, 1977, p. 38, dates it about 1609 or 1610.
Arlette Sérullaz. Rubens, ses maîtres, ses élèves. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1978, p. 150, under no. 166, publishes the Vorstermans drawing as a copy after this picture.
Nora de Poorter. "The Eucharist Series." Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. part 2, 2 vols., London, 1978, vol. 1, pp. 271–72 n. 2, observes an identical figure in a tapestry depicting "The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy in Adoration" (Convent of the Descalzas Reales, Madrid).
J. Richard Judson and Carl van de Velde. "Book Illustrations and Title-Pages." Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. pt. 21, 2 vols., London, 1978, vol. 1, p. 100, under no. 9, note that the heads were used for two Apostles in an illustration of the Ascension for the "Missale Romanum" of 1613.
Julius S. Held. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens. Princeton, 1980, vol. 1, p. 598, calls it a study head "ennobled" into a portrait of Plato, and states that it may date to a few years later than 1609 [see Ref. Goris and Held 1947]; calls the head on the left a later addition, though not necessarily by another hand.
Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 85, 87–88 n. 32, fig. 9.
Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 168–72; vol. 2, pl. 64, discusses related works in detail, and oberves that it seems quite possible that the Museum's panel was the portrait of Plato acquired by Balthasar Moretus of the Plantin press between about 1613 and 1616.
J. Douglas Stewart. Letter to Walter Liedtke. August 6, 1985, suggests an earlier date based on the correspondence of the head on the right with a figure in an altarpiece of about 1605, depicting the Circumcision, in the Jesuit church in Genoa.
Michael Jaffé. Rubens: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, p. 164, no. 83, ill.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke in Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 25, 363, no. 417, ill.
Tine Meganck and Hélène Dubois in Rubens: A Genius at Work. Exh. cat., Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. Tielt, Belgium, 2007, p. 75, fig. 1 (color).
Caroline Elam in Mantegna, 1431–1506. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 371 n. 37.