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Gerrit van Honthorst: Wikis


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Margareta Maria de Roodere and Her Parents by Gerrit van Honthorst (1652) Oil on canvas, 140 x 170 cm. Centraal Museum, Utrecht

Gerard van Honthorst (November 4, 1592 - April 27, 1656), also known as Gerrit van Honthorst and in Italy as Gherardo delle Notti for his nighttime candlelit subjects, was a Dutch Golden Age painter of Utrecht.



He was initially trained at the school of Abraham Bloemaert, who exchanged the style of the Franckens for Italianate models at the beginning of the 16th century. Honthorst travelled to Italy in 1616, where he learned how to imitate the style of Michelangelo da Caravaggio. Home again about 1620, after acquiring a considerable practice in Rome, he set up a school at Utrecht which flourished. Together with his colleague Hendrick ter Brugghen, he represented the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti. In 1623 he was president of the Guild of St. Luke at Utrecht, where he had married his cousin. He soon became so fashionable that Sir Dudley Carleton, then English envoy at The Hague, recommended his works to the earl of Arundel and Lord Dorchester. In 1626 he hosted a dinner for Rubens, and painted him as the honest man sought for and found by Diogenes.

Royal patrons

The queen of Bohemia, sister of Charles I of England and Electress Palatine, being in exile in the Netherlands, commissioned Honthorst as painter and tutor to teach her children drawing. Thus Honthorst came to know her brother Charles I, who invited him to England in 1628. There he painted several portraits, and a vast allegory, now at Hampton Court, of Charles and his queen as Diana and Apollo in the clouds receiving the duke of Buckingham as Mercury and guardian of the king of Bohemia's children. At the Court of Charles I Honthorst was praised by Lord Arundel for his ability to ape Caravaggio's colouring, which was then much esteemed at Rome.

Royal patrons:

Honthorst became known for his night scenes, called chiaroscuro, or nagtlichten[1]. Joachim von Sandrart gave the measure of Honthorst's popularity at this period when he says that he had as many as twenty apprentices at one time, each of whom paid him a fee of 100 forms a year.

After Honthorst left England, he returned to Utrecht. His enjoyed a high reputation as a painter among his peers. In Utrecht, Honthorst succeeded in preserving the patronage of the English monarch, for whom he finished in 1631 a large picture of the king and queen of Bohemia and all their children. For Lord Dorchester about the same period he completed some illustrations of the Odyssey; for Christian IV of Denmark, he composed incidents of Danish history, of which one example remains in the gallery of Copenhagen. In the course of a large practice, Honthorst had painted many likenesses of Charles I and his queen, the duke of Buckingham, and the king and queen of Bohemia.

Honthorst now became court painter to the Princess of Orange, settled (1637) at The Hague, and painted in succession at the Castle of Ryswick and the Huis ten Bosch. The time not consumed in producing pictures was devoted to portraits.


Honthorst's works are numerous, and amply represented in English and Continental galleries. His most attractive pieces are those in which he cultivates the style of Caravaggio, those, namely, which represent taverns, with players, singers and eaters. He shows great skill in reproducing scenes illuminated by a single candle, (chiaroscuro).

Of great interest still are Honthorst's portraits of the Duke of Buckingham and Family (Hampton Court), the King and Queen of Bohemia (Hanover and Combe Abbey), Marie de Medici (Amsterdam Stadthuis), 1628, the Stadtholders and their Wives (Amsterdam and Hague), Charles Louis and Rupert, Charles I's nephews (Louvre, St Petersburg, Combe Abbey and Willin), and Lord Craven, (National Portrait Gallery, London).

Honthorst's early form may be judged by a Lute-player (1614) at the Louvre, the Martyrdom of St John in S. M. della Scala at Rome, or the Liberation of Peter in the Berlin Museum; his latest style is that of the House in the Wood (1648), where he appears to disadvantage by the side of Jordaens and others.

Honthorst was succeeded by his brother William, born at Utrecht in 1604, who died, it is said, in 1666. William lived chiefly in his native place, temporarily at Berlin. But he has left little behind except a portrait at Amsterdam, and likenesses in the Berlin Museum of William and Mary of England.


Popular Culture

A copy of Gerard van Hontorst's works can been seen lying on the desk of the (Post-Nuclear) White House in the video game Modern Warfare 2.

External links


  1. ^ (Dutch) Gerard Honthorst biography in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature


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