Diogenes was a philosopher of the 4th Century B.C. who lived in Athens and Corinth. He is the best known of the Cynics, a group of Greek philosophers that stressed stoic self-sufficency and the rejection of luxury. He despised worldly possessions to such a degree that he lived for a time in a barrel. When Alexander the Great visited him he is said to have requested that the Emperor stand aside as he was shading him from the sun. Indeed the inscription to the top of the tapestry translates to 'Alexander realised that he was the great man who lived in the barrel and how much happier is he who desires nothing than he who demands the whole world for himself'. This panel in particular depicts Diogenes, washing herbs in a stream, is visited by Plato. It refers to an anecdote where Diogenes accuses Plato for accepting the patronage of Dionysius, despot of Syracuse. The inscription to the top translates to 'Dionysius is base in my eyes although I wash herbs'.
This series appears to be exclusively English in origin and was probably designed at Mortlake in the late 1660s or early 1670s. It comprised seven panels and was repeatedly woven at Mortlake and later copied at Soho. This type of border with its large acanthus clasps was almost certainly always woven at Mortlake and three panels with identical border at the Palace of Holyroodhouse bear the Mortlake mark on the outer slip.
A Mortlake version of Diogenes writing on the wall from this series was sold anonymously in these Rooms, 26 November 1996, lot 226, while a Soho version of the same subject was sold anonymously in these Rooms, 16 May 1996, lot 214. A further fragmentary panel depciting The School of Plato was sold anonymously in these Rooms, 30 October 1997, lot 215. A set of five panels from this series, including this subject, is at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and is recorded as having been purchased by Charles II during the half year ending 25 March 1683 (M. Swain, Tapestries and Textiles at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, 1988, pp. 12-15, figs. 2a-2e, this subject being p. 14, fig. 2c).