By age 30, Édouard Manet had gained recognition at the state-sponsored Salon exhibition in Paris and established himself as the artist to watch, creating new imagery for contemporary works that
translated Old Master painting into a modern idiom. Here he looked to the 17th-century Baroque artist Diego Velázquez, whose two paintings of world-weary
philosophers (Aesop and Menippus, both c. 1638) Manet had admired that year at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.
Like Velázquez's representation of the ancient stoics (whose poverty is associated with wisdom), Manet's beggar-philosophers fit into the popular notion of the social outcast as a seer possessing rare insight.