Artwork Data


René Descartes


Emile de Nieuwerkercke




brons / steenachtig


210 cm

Partial collection

Gemeentelijk monument

Artwork Location


Newtonplein, Den Haag

City district


GPS data

52.0719708834938, 4.27763706368171 View on map

Artwork Description


Europe has three identical statues of René Descartes (1596-1650). Two in bronze and one in marble. Two in France and one in The Hague. All three are by the French sculptor Emile de Nieuwerkercke. With his equestrian statues and statues of international stature, he expressed the grandeur his patrons desired. King Willem II, who commissioned the statue of the great French mathematician and philosopher Descartes in The Hague, was a true admirer of his sculptures.

De Nieuwerkercke had also made the equestrian statue of Prince Willem I for him. As with that statue, the prince paid for the memorial to Descartes himself and ordered it without hesitation. He awarded the commission when, at the unveiling of the equestrian statue in 1845, he heard that the sculptor was working on a statue of the philosopher for his birthplace La Haye near Tours. Yet the unveiling of the statue for La Haye did not take place first. The city neatly waited until 1846 to commemorate the fact that Descartes had been born there 250 years earlier. The statue in The Hague was placed in the newly constructed Willemspark in 1845. The city of Tours did not obtain a marble version until 1850. And so King William II had the scoop.

Since 1914, the Descartes monument with his motto 'cogito ergo sum', 'I think, therefore I exist' on its pedestal, has stood in the public garden at Newtonplein. But why The Hague? Because although Descartes stayed in various Dutch cities between 1629 and 1649 to work on his writings in peace and quiet, he never lived in the residence. In 1618, however, Descartes, who was trained as a lawyer and military officer, joined Prince Maurice's army for a year. Descartes' statue in the Royal Palace is undoubtedly due to his special relationship with the Dutch royal family.