X-radiographs taken in 1967 during cleaning showed that around the left shoulder of Heraclitus is a repetition of the satyr holding a child on his shoulders who appears to the right of the Allegory of Fecundity in the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, which now shows up light. Philippe (loc. cit) reproduced an X-ray mosaic of the canvas, and stated that on the right hand part are 'éléments-indiscutables et mis en place avec aisance de la Fécondité de Bruxelles. Il s'agit en ordre principal du group de satyre portant une faune sur les épaules, ainsi que la tête de la femme, reposant l'avant- plan'. The expanse of red visible in the centre and to the left may be that of the drapery covering the nearby nymph holding grapes.
The present work was probably known to R.A. d'Hulst, who according to Nora de Poorter (e-mail of 30th March 2008) 'probably accepted it as an original', but he did not include it in his monograph on Jordaens' paintings. Nora de Poorter herself, judging from a reproduction, wrote that it 'seemed to be a work of the 1640s'. A slightly larger version is in the Herzog Anton-Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick, which was described as a copy in 1976, but was restored to its traditional attribution in full to Jordaens by Rüdiger Klessmann in his catalogue of 2003. This was also omitted by d'Hulst in his monograph on Jordaens. Which of these two pictures is the prime version is open to debate: but the execution of the present picture over a partial ricordo of an earlier design by Jordaens may argue for its being the prototype.
The figure of Heraclitus also appears in the Democritus and Heraclitus, which was de-accessioned by the Metropolitan Museum by a sale at Christie's, New York, 5 June 1980, lot 134. The same model, also resting his head in his right hand, appeared in the earlier St. Philip, exhibited in the Jordaens exhibition at Ottawa, 1968/69, no. 20.
The subject of the laughing and weeping philosophers, treated either singly or together - Democritus of Abdera (c. 460 - c. 370 BC) who laughed at the folly of mankind, and Heraclitus of Ephesius (c. 540 - c. 475 BC) who wept at it - was popular in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Albert Blankert in his survey published in the Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek in 1967, listed some eighty examples.