Utrecht Caravaggisti

Brilliant. Passionate. Innovative

Dirck van Baburen, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst: these three painters from Utrecht travelled to Rome in the early seventeenth century, where they were inspired by the painters Caravaggio and Ribera.

Rome    ———

Rome, along with Naples, was the cultural centre of Europe in the early seventeenth century. It was the city of which the Flemish writer and painter Karel van Mander noted in 1604, in his Schilder-Boeck: “There is also one Michael Agnolo from Caravaggio who is doing marvellous things in Rome.”

Utrecht painters in Rome    ———

The city, with its wealth of culture, inspired many painters to undertake an artistic pilgrimage. The Utrecht painters Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerard van Honthorst and Dirck van Baburen were among those to undertake the long and adventurous journey to the epicentre of art.

Before setting off, they had already been apprentices to the great painters of Utrecht at that time: Abraham Bloemaert, also known as ‘the Father of Utrecht painting’, and Paulus Moreelse.

Abraham Bloemaert, Joseph and his brothers, 1595-1600

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Paradise full of bounty  ———

Utrecht was a flourishing city in that period, only later losing this position to cities like Amsterdam. It inspired the famous Dutch poet, Joost van Vondel, to pen the following praise:

"There lark and nightingale sing with equal joy
A lovely song that never dulls the ear.
How then to refer to Utrecht? As a Paradise full of bounty."

Jan Lievens, Portrait of Joost van den Vondel, 1644 - 1650. Collection Rijksmuseum

Jan Both.jpg

Caravaggio   ———

It was a strenuous journey of over three thousand kilometres to Rome, also undertaken by many other painters from France, Belgium and Spain. In Rome they encountered Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio. His use of the chiaroscuro technique and realistic representation created quite a sensation.

Jan Both, Landschap met rustende reizigers en een ossenwagen, circa 1645

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Dutch Golden Age   ———

What the Utrecht painters saw and learnt from Caravaggio but also for example from Jusepe de Ribera had a profound effect on their artistic development. This sometimes became apparent only after their return to Utrecht.

The work by these Utrecht Caravaggisti forms a link connecting Caravaggio’s baroque Italian art with the great and famous painters of the Dutch 17th century: Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer.

Gerard van Honthorst   ———

Gerard van Honthorst established a successful studio at Dom Square, with a large number of pupils. He painted history pieces, genre pieces and portraits, and his work was commissioned by both English and Dutch royalty. Honthorst also specialised in painting scenes with an unseen source of light. One of his best-known works, The Matchmaker, is a fine example.

Dirck van Baburen, De graflegging van Christus, 1617-1621

Dirck van Baburen   ———

Another famous work in Centraal Museum’s collection is ‘The Entombment’ by Dirck van Baburen. Other works created during Baburen’s relatively short career include the altar piece for the Pietà chapel of the San Pietro in Montorio in Rome, which was inspired by Caravaggio’s Entombment. The latter was also created originally as an altar piece for a church in Rome, and is now part of the Vatican collection.

Hendrick ter Brugghen    ———

Hendrick ter Brugghen painted life-sized portraits of drinkers and musicians, as well as religious scenes. One of his best-known works, ‘The Calling of Saint Matthew’, was inspired in part by the same-titled work created by Caravaggio in 1600 for the walls of the Contarelli chapel in Rome. Brugghen’s painting is part of Centraal Museum’s collection.

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