Allan Ramsay painted remarkable portraits of the great philosophers David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1766. Rousseau had fled persecution and come to England at Hume's invitation. The portraits were painted while Rousseau and Hume were staying in London, where Rousseau, who at this time was best know as a novelist, was something of a celebrity. The relationship between the philosophers began well, but later dissolved in acrimony, with Rousseau accusing Hume of all kinds of betrayals (some of which he might just have been guilty of). Terrified that Rousseau, who was writing his Confessions at the time, might put his semi-paranoid beliefs into his autobiography, Hume pre-empted him by publishing a pamphlet which included transcripts of letters sent by Rousseau.
The two portraits are both in their way Rembrandtian (Hume's is like the Kenwood Self Portrait; Rousseau's closer to the Cologne Self Portrait as Zeuxis - sometimes known as The Laughing Philosopher). They hung side by side in Hume's house in Edinburgh. They're still in Edinburgh, but sadly not side by side any more.
I had intended to publish a book on this philosophers' quarrel one day, but never got round to it. I did write an article, though, about the portraits:[36KB rtf] Download art_and_allusion.rtf . A shortened version of this was published in The Philosophers Magazine. Fortunately David Edmonds and John Eidinow hit on the same idea recently and produced Rousseau's Dog - a better researched book than I think I'd have managed - and on the basis of their excellent earlier book Wittgenstein's Poker , I happily handed over my notes to them.
Update. See my post for 23/11/06 for link to a new article by Douglas Fordham on Ramsay's Hume/Rousseau portraits.