<em>Orbis sensualium pictus</em>, 1659, by Comenius (Czech, 1592-1670), sheet from printed book.

Orbis sensualium pictus, 1659, by Comenius (Czech, 1592-1670). English translation by Charles Hoole (English, 1610-1667). Sheet from printed book.

The Orbis sensualium pictus, often described as the first children’s picture-book, sought to use animal sounds to teach children the alphabet.  The author, Jan Amos Komenský, who took the Latin name Comenius, was an early champion of universal education. The book was originally published in German and Latin, and translated into English the following year by Charles Hoole, an English cleric and educational writer. A sheet from that translation is displayed above.

Rembrandt’s Portrait of an Old Man in an Armchair, 1665, now in the Uffizi Art Gallery in Florence, bears a strong resemblance to other known portraits of Comenius. I believe that both men were in Amsterdam in 1660.

Old Man in an Armchair (Jan Amos Comenius?), ca. 1660-1665, by Rembrant. Oil on canvas. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, 69.234.

Old Man in an Armchair (Jan Amos Comenius?), ca. 1660-1665, by Rembrant. Oil on canvas. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, 69.234.