Comte de Lalaing, Flemish Ambassador to Madrid during the 1730s; By descent to the 19th Comte de Lalaing, Château de Zandbergen, Belgium.
The design is known in many variants, of which the prime version is considered the painting in a private collection in New York, painted for Afán de Ribera, 3rd Duke of Alcalá, as one of a set of twelve philosophers from Antiquity, executed between 1629–31.1
1 N. Spinosa, Ribera. La Obra Completa, Madrid 2008, p. 365.
The canvas has a very firm relining, and the paint surface has a distinctive grid-shaped network of craquelure. The paint surface is clean, and the varnish is clear and even. Inspection under ultraviolet light reveals two campaigns of restoration. Older areas of intervention are visible in patches throughout the background, notably centre left, and in the background around Aesop's head, where there appears to have been a C-shaped area of damage around his silhouette. More recent restoration which fluoresces more darkly is found throughout the background, to Aesop's forehead, cheek and hair, and scattered in his face and chest, as well as in his clothes and fingers. There is also restoration to two possible old, repaired tears, one just above his proper right arm in a vertical line approx. 5 cm., and the other in his shoulder also 5 cm. long. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."