Gerrit van Honthorst
Utrecht 1590 – Utrecht 1656
Woman Tuning a Lute
Oil on canvas
81.5 x 64.5 cm
Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, William Gilman Cheney Bequest and the Museum Campaign 1988-1993 Fund, inv. 2013.68
The Museum dedicates this work to the memory of Ellen Clara and Bruno Richard Spiro, victims of the Holocaust.
Honthorst came from a family of artists and trained in the Utrecht studio of Bloemaert. He began his independent career in Rome, where he lived from probably shortly after 1610 until 1620. There, he was greatly influenced by the art of Caravaggio; in fact, the young Dutch artist lived in the household of Caravaggio’s patron. While in Italy, Honthorst also encountered the artists Ribera and Valentin and received commissions from Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a renowned collector and patron of the young Bernini. Shortly after his locally celebrated return to Utrecht in 1620, he joined the Guild of Saint Luke, for which he served as dean. Honthorst was and remains the most famous of the group of Utrecht Caravaggisti, the Dutch followers of Caravaggio. Honthorst combined the Italian artist’s dramatic light contrasts with a fresh and often playful naturalism in his choice of subjects and their presentation. He was famous for his nocturnal scenes with artificial lighting. A successful visit to England led to growing international recognition for the artist and assured his patronage by royalty and private collectors for the rest of his career. Honthorst abandoned Caravaggism in the 1630s.