ART 4 2-DAY 04 November
DEATH: 1856 DELAROCHE
Born on 04 November 1575: Guido
Reni Le Guide, Italian Baroque
era painter who died on 18 August
1642. He studied under Denys
Calvaert and Lodovico
Carracci. Reni's students included Simone
Reni painted popular religious works and critically acclaimed mythological scenes. He was born in Bologna and began to study painting at the age of nine, and about 1595 he became a student of the Carracci family of Bolognese painters. His studies were rounded off by a trip to Rome in about 1600. From that moment on, antique and recent Roman art became his ideals. He admired Raphael unconditionally. He did, however, come to terms with Caravaggio's naturalism in a group of youthful works such as The Crucifixion of St Peter (1604), where the use of chiaroscuro provided enormous energy.
He alternated between living in his native Bologna and visits to Rome. After Annibale Carracci's death (1609) he became the leader of the classical school of Emilian painters. His adhesion to this school can be seen in the frescos he painted in Rome in about 1610 in the Quirinal Palace, the Vatican, and various churches (e.g. San Gregorio Magno al Cielo). They were inspired by the return to classical taste and culminated in his most renowned work, the ceiling fresco Phoebus and the Hours, Preceded by Aurora (1614) which has almost mimetic qualities. The large altarpieces he painted in Bologna The Massacre of the Innocents and Pietà dei Mendicanti mark the triumph of design, the ability to control and channel feelings, gestures, expressions, drawing, and color into a single, eloquent, and faultless form. Guido Reni's success was underlined by the important commissions he received. They included the cycle of The Labors of Hercules (1617-1621). He exalted the clarity of light, the perfection of the body, and lively color. Toward the end of his life, Reni modified his style. His paintings became so airy as to seem insubstantial and were almost completely monochrome. He also used long, flowing brushstrokes and conveyed an atmosphere laden with intense melancholy.
Guido Reni was a quintessentially classical academic but he was also one of the most elegant painters in the annals of art history. He was constantly seeking an absolute, rarefied perfection which he measured against classical Antiquity and Raphael. Because of this, over the years the Bolognese painter has been in and out of fashion, depending on the tastes of the times. The eighteenth century loved him, the nineteenth century, persuaded by the violent criticism of John Ruskin, hated him. But even his detractors cannot deny the exceptional technical quality of his work nor the clarity of his supremely assured and harmonious brushwork.
— Hercules Beheads the Hydra (1621; 756x573pix, 46kb — ZOOM to 1512x1142pix, 225kb — ZOOM++ to 2268x1715pix, 245kb)
— Bacchus and Ariadne (1630; 879x889pix, 75kb — ZOOM to 1333x1180pix, 150kb — ZOOM++ to 2012x1769pix, 339kb) [the story of Bacchus and his meeting Ariadne]
The Boy Bacchus (1618, 87x70cm) _ This graceful and serene painting was made after Reni between 1615 and 1620 after Reni had been several times to Rome.
Drinking Bacchus (1623, 72x56cm; 843x649pix, 116kb) as a urinating baby.
Baptism of Christ (1623, 263x186cm) _ Reni's Baptism of Christ, created in the mid 1620s as a major masterpiece of his mature style, is based on principles of composition similar to those applied in The Massacre of the Innocents. The painting is built up into three clearly distinct planes. At the very front, Christ bows beneath the baptismal cup, which John the Baptist pours over him with his raised right hand. The Baptist is standing or, rather, slightly kneeling over Christ on the banks of the Jordan. Below the arc formed by these two figures facing each other in humility, we see two angels who, together with a third figure at the outside left, are holding Christ's robes in readiness. Behind that, the trees, clouds and deep blue sky combine to create a sense of indefinable distance from which the Holy Spirit floats down in the form of a dove.
The entire scene, in its structure and coloration, is of overwhelming simplicity. The act of baptism itself is entirely void of bright colors. The matte and shimmering flesh tones of the two nude figures stand out clearly against the middle ground and background, where everything is dominated by the solemn purity of the three primary colors red, yellow and blue. On another level, however, all the figures are closely linked in that expression of complete spiritual devotion that Reni could convey like no other artist. Reni was able to create a balance of strictly disciplined compositional form and profound sentiment that his many imitators failed to achieve.
Massacre of the Innocents (1611, 268x170cm) _ Though the historical significance of Caravaggio and his enormous influence on Baroque painting cannot be overlooked, we should not ignore the fact that there was considerable resistance against the more extreme tendencies in his art, such as the loss of the heroic sphere, or the presentation of the everyday and the ordinary. His greatest rival, whose influence was to extend far beyond that of Caravaggio well into the 18th and 19th centuries, was undoubtedly the Bolognese artist Guido Reni. An early work such as The Massacre of the Innocents bears clear traces of his initial links with Caravaggio and, at the same time, already reveals the most important arguments against him. Before a landscape bathed in light, but set with dark and heavy architecture, a group of eight adults and eight children (including the putti distributing the palm fronds of victory) has been skillfully arranged. The unusual vertical format, rarely used for this theme, and above all the symmetrical structure of figural counterparts indicate that Reni was particularly interested in a specific problem of composition: that of achieving a balance between centripetal and centrifugal movement while combining them in a static pictorial structure. Reni also seeks to achieve this equilibrium in his expression of effects and in the distribution of color accents.
St Joseph with the Infant Jesus (1635, 126x101cm) _ The resting Mary in the background indicates that the scene is connected with the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt.
a slightly different (without Mary) St Joseph with the Infant Jesus, from Reni's workshop.
The Penitent St Mary Magdalene (1633, 234x151cm) [reclining, full-length, looking up to the right to a baby angel] _ The image of the penitent Mary Magdalene enjoyed great popularity between the late sixteenth century and the first decades of the seventeenth century. Cardinal Baronius, in his hard-hitting polemics against Protestantism, employed the subject (along with that of the penitent St Peter) to emphasize the necessity and validity of penance, a sacrament discarded by the reformers. The penitent Magdalene was something of a iconographic specialty for Reni, who painted various versions to please a public that prized them and continually requested them. A splendid example of the mature style of Reni, this painting is characterized by a profound classicism in the monumental and noble figure of the saint. The refined chromatic range, lit by a cold and silvery light, is also typical of Reni's art in the 1630's. The Penitent Magdalene is chronologically connected, though problematically, to a third Barberini Magdalene attributed to Vouet or one of his close followers: datable to 1626-27, the composition of the latter painting is very close to that of the Reni.
a different The Penitent St Mary Magdalene (1635) [standing, half-length, left hand on a skull, looking up to the left towards outside the frame]
The Triumph of Samson (1612; 829x672pix, 41kb — ZOOM to 1105x897pix, 72kb — ZOOM++ to 1658x1345pix, 108kb) _ The unusual shape of the picture (each upper corner cut off by two arcs of circle and two straight segments) is a reminder of its original use as a fireplace cover. The well balanced figure of the hero quenching his thirst after his victory is set against a dramatic landscape littered as far as the eye can see with the corpses of his enemies.
David with the Head of Goliath (1605, 220x145cm) _ This painting can be compared directly with Caravaggio's David With the Head of Goliath (1610) _ See also: Caravaggio's David with the Head of Goliath (1602) Rembrandt's David Presenting the Head of Goliath to King Saul (detail) (1627) Stanzione's David with Head of Goliath Strozzi's David with the Head of Goliath (1635) Aubin Vouet's David Holding the Head of Goliath The Master of Tahull's David About to Cut Off Goliath's Head (1123)
Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist (1640)
Moses (1610) _ At the beginning of the 17th century the followers of Caravaggio and Carracci vied with each other for predominance. Some sought a classical approach and a serene harmony of forms and colors, others were intent on humbly capturing simple everyday life set in a powerful contrast of light and shadow. But there was no hard and fast dividing line between them and even classical painters like Guido Reni in his Moses is influenced by Caravaggio's heroic dramatic style. This new humble yet monumental language became an international phenomenon.
The Abduction of Dejanira (259x193cm) _ This painting belongs to the cycle of Hercules, intended for the Duke of Mantua. The artist applies successfully the study of the human body, blending a naturalistic touch with his passion for Greek statues. The joyful ardor which is expressed on the face of the young centaur carrying off Dejanira should be noted.
Atalanta and Hippomenes (1612, 206x297cm) _ an almost identical, later Atalanta and Hippomenes (1625) _ In the Boeotian version of the legend, followed by Ovid (Metamorphoses 10:560-707), Atalanta was an athletic huntress. Her way with her suitors was to challenge them to a race in which the loser was punished with death. She remained unbeaten and a virgin until Hippomenes (elsewhere named Melanion) took her on. As they ran he dropped three golden apples, given to him by Venus, and since Atalanta could not resist stopping to pick them up she lost the race. They later made love in a temple of Cybele, which offended the goddess so much that she turned them both into lions. This composition is calculated and refined. It highlights the contradictory gestures of Atalanta bending down to pick up a golden apple and of Hippomenes passing her about to win the race. The idea of movement is rendered almost exclusively by the billowing cloaks. The ivory smooth bodies of the two contestants clearly stand out remarkably against the gray-brown background.
_ Compare La course d'Hippomène et d'Atalante (1765, 321x712 cm; 873x2000pix, 200kb) by Hallé [02 Sep 1781 – 05 Jun 1781]
_ Atalanta and Hippomenes (1560; 654x1095pix, 79kb) by Schönfeld [1609-1683]
_ Hippomenes and Atalanta (1630; 274x343pix, 30kb) by Jordaens [1593-1678]
Phoebus and the Hours, Preceded by Aurora (1614; 482x1195pix, 83kb — ZOOM to 724x1792pix, 223kb — ZOOM++ to 1086x2688pix, 261kb) _ During Guido Reni's second stay in Rome he directly tackled themes from classical Antiquity. While this composition was openly derived from classical art, it was meant in the spirit of purest love and has a genuine if rather insipid beauty. Though a ceiling decoration, it is composed in the form of a frieze as if painted on a wall. Here the artist was rebelling against the spatial researches which at that time were exciting such passionate interest in Lanfranco and Pietro da Cortona.
Cleopatra (1640, 122x96cm; 869x754pix, 52kb — ZOOM to 2409x2071pix, 441kb) _ The painting was sent as a present to Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici with a letter of 04 January 1640 by Marchese Cospi of Bologna. This very beautiful painting belongs to the last period of Guido Reni, and in its very delicate, pale, refined color especially, it appears as one of the most striking testimonies of the surprising poetical evolution of Reni in the last years of his life. Being celebrated, it was carried off to Paris by the Napoleonic army from 1799 to 1815.
Charity _ (about the virtue of charity)
Susannah and the Elders _ In the Book of Daniel, Chapter 13 is told the story of the wicked elders, in revenge against Susannah who had refused to sin with them, getting her sentenced to death on their false accusation, and of the young Daniel bringing out the truth and having the elders put to death instead.
Deianeira Abducted by the Centaur Nessus (1621)
Baptism of Christ (1623) The Coronation of the Virgin (1626)
Angels in Glory, after Luca Cambiaso (1607 etching, 41x28cm; 4/5 size) _ with the inscription IVBILEMVS DEO SALVTARI NOSTRO.
The Holy Family with Saint Clare _ (about Saint Clare of Assisi [16 Jul 1194 – 11 Aug 1253])
Head of an Old Man (1630)
Holy Family with Two Angels Girl Carrying a Cushion, after Parmigianino
Girl With a Crucifix, after Parmigianino The Madonna and Child with Saint
The Holy Family (1590) Portrait of an Old Woman (1612, 34x28cm)
24 prints at FAMSF
Died on 04 November 1856: Hippolyte
“Paul” Delaroche, French Academic
painter born on 17 July 1797.
Born in Paris, Delaroche studied under Gros, and specialized in romantic historical subjects such as the Death of Queen Elizabeth (1827), Jeanne d'Arc en Prison (1824), Napoléon Crossing the Alps (1850), Princes in the Tower (1830), and the Execution of Lady Jane Grey (1834).
From this period until 1841 he was engaged on his grandest work the mural Apotheosis of Art in the École des Beaux-Arts, in which he was aided by Armitage and others of his students.
Delaroche is best known today for his painting La Jeune Martyre.
— Delaroche was born in Paris. His father was an expert who had made a fortune, to some extent, by negotiating and cataloguing, buying and selling. He was proud of his son’s talent, and able to provide for his artistic education. The master selected was Gros, then painting life-size historical scenes, and surrounded by many students. Deroche's first exhibited picture was a large one, Josabeth saving Joas (1822). This picture led to his acquaintance with Géricault and Delacroix, with whom he remained on the most friendly terms, the three forming the central group of a numerous body of historical painters, such as perhaps never before lived in one locality and at one time.
From 1822 the record of his life is to be found in the successive works coming from his hand. In 1838 and 1843 he visited Italy, where his father-in-law, Horace Vernet, was director of the French Academy. Delaroche's studio in Paris was in the rue Mazarine. He treated his subjects in a manner that was popular with those who held certain views of history, sometimes controversial. Yet they had a romantic appeal to the general public. They were painted with a solid, smooth surface, found also in the works of Vernet, Scheffer, Leopold Robert, and Ingres. This was a rejection of the technical charm of texture and variety of handling which the English school had inherited as a tradition from the time of Reynolds. But it made the pictures more easily appreciated by the general public, more interested in the history, scene in nature, or object depicted, than on the technical skill of the painter.
The scenes painted by Delaroche were not always historically correct. Cromwell lifting the Coffin-lid and looking at the Body of Charles is an incident based on an improbable tradition; but The King in the Guard-Room, with villainous roundhead soldiers blowing tobacco smoke in his patient face, is an attack on the Puritans; and La Mort de la Reine Elizabeth (1828) on the ground, like a she-dragon no one dares to touch, is sensationalist; while The Execution of Lady Jane Grey is represented as taking place in a dungeon, which was not the case. But little matters this slight inaccuracy, compared with the admirable treatment of Lady Jane, with bandaged sight, feeling for the block, her maids covering their faces. On the other hand, Strafford led to Execution, when Laud stretches his lawn-covered arms out of the small high window of his cell to give him a blessing as he passes along the corridor, is perfect; and the splendid scene of Richelieu in his gorgeous barge, preceding the boat containing Cinq-Mars and De Thou carried to execution by their guards, is perhaps the most dramatic semi-historical work ever done. The Princes in the Tower is a complete invention; and La Jeune Martyre (1855) floating dead on the Tiber is so pathetic that any criticism would be callous. As authentic history, again, no picture can surpass L'Assassinat du duc de Guise à Blois (1834). The expression of the murdered man stretched out by the side of the bed, the conspirators all massed together towards the door and far from the body, reveal Delaroche's careful research as well as his insight into human nature. This work was exhibited in Delaroche's heyday, 1835; and in the same year he exhibited the Head of an Angel, a study of Horace Vernet’s young daughter Louise, his love for whom was the absorbing passion of his life, and from the shock of whose death, in 1845, it is said he never quite recovered. By far his finest productions after her death are of the most serious character, a sequence of small elaborate pictures of incidents in the Passion. Two of these, The Virgin and the other Maries, with the apostles Peter and John, within a nearly dark apartment, hearing the crowd accompanying Christ on his way to Calvary, and Saint John accompanying the Virgin home again after all is over, are beyond all praise as exhibiting the divine story from a simply human point of view. They are pure and elevated, and also dramatic and painful.
Delaroche was not moved by ideals, nor did he pretend to be. His sound but hard-headed approach allowed no mystery to intervene between him and his work, which was always intelligible to the millions, so that he avoided all the waste of energy expended by painters who try to be poets on canvas. Thus it is that essentially the same treatment was applied by him to the characters of distant historical times, the founders of the Christian religion, and the real people of his own day, such as Napoleon at Fontainebleau, or Napoleon at Saint-Helena, or Marie Antoinette leaving the Convention after being sentenced to death.
In 1837 Delaroche received the commission for the great picture, 27 metres long, in the hemicycle of the lecture theatre of the École des Beaux Arts. This represents the great artists of the modern ages assembled in groups on either hand of a central elevation of white marble steps, on the topmost of which are three thrones filled by the architects and sculptors of the Parthenon. To supply the female element in this vast composition he introduced the genii or muses, who symbolize or reign over the arts, leaning against the balustrade of the steps, beautiful and queenly figures with a certain antique perfection of form, but not showing any remarkable or profound expression. The portrait figures are nearly all accurate and admirable. This great and successful work is on the wall itself, an inner wall however, and is painted in oil. It was finished in 1841. In 1855 a fire inflicted considerable damage, which Delaroche immediately started repairing; but he died before he could finish, which was then done by Robert-Fleury.
Delaroche had perhaps an even greater influence in person than by his works. Though short and not muscular, he impressed every one as rather tall; his physiognomy was accentuated and firm, and his fine forehead gave him the air of a minister of state.
— Delaroche's students included Tony Robert-Fleury, Gustave Boulanger, Gérôme, Louis Gallait, François Gignoux, Ernest Hébert, Charles Landelle.
— Self-Portrait (1838 drawing)
Pierre le Grand (119x88cm; quarter-size 1208x984pix, 164kb (or here 180kb) — ZOOM to half-size 2416x1968pix, 630kb (or here 694kb) — ZOOM++ to full size 1146kb)
— Cromwell looking at Charles I in his Coffin (1831; main detail 883x1187pix, 128kb — ZOOM to full picture; 2023x2446pix, 627kb)
— Assassinat du duc de Guise (1834; 769x1182pix, 129kb — ZOOM to 1537x2694pix, 838kb)
— L'ultime adieu des Girondins le 31 octobre 1793 (1856; detail 941x1737pix, 199kb — ZOOM to full picture; 1555x2768pix, 425kb)
L'enfance de Pico della Mirandola (1842)
Hemicycle de l'École des Beaux-Arts: Gauche _ Centre _ Droite _ détail
Cardinal Mazarin Dying (1830) _ (about Jules Mazarin [14 Jul 1602 – 09 Mar 1661])
Herodias (1843) Marquis de Pastoret (1829)
Strafford (1836)— Head of a Camaldoles Monk (1834) _ (about the Camaldolese Order)
— Saint Veronica (1865) _ (about Saint Veronica)
— Charles de Rémusat (1845) — Girl in a Basin (1845) — A Family Scene (1847) — Virgin and Child (1844)
— Cardinal Richelieu (1829) — same situation, different view Cardinal Richelieu (1829) _ (about Armand-Jean du Plessis, duc de Richelieu [05 Sep 1585 – 04 Dec 1642])
— Mother and Children
— Resting on the Banks of the Tiber (1840; 575x721pix) — Rêverie (1143x667pix)
Born on 04 November 1590: Gerrit van
Honthorst Gherardo della Notte, Dutch painter
addicted to night scenes, who died on 27 April 1656. [Did he hunt
Honthorst was a leading member of the Utrecht school influenced by Caravaggio.
Like his slightly older contemporary Hendrik Terbrugghen, Honthorst first studied under Abraham Bloemaert in Utrecht. In about 1610 he moved to Italy, where he had leading nobles as patrons and assimilated Caravaggio's realism and dramatic use of artificial light into a personal idiom. Notable works of his Italian sojourn include The Beheading of St.John the Baptist, Christ Before the High Priest (1617), and the Supper Party (1620), all nocturnal scenes.
Returning to the Netherlands in 1620, Honthorst stayed in Utrecht until 1627, the year of Rubens' visit to his home. He was dean of the Utrecht Guild of Saint Luke in 1625-1626, and in 1628 he worked at the court of Charles I in London. The rest of his life was spent primarily in The Hague and, after 1652, at Utrecht.
Although Honthorst accepted commissions for decorative cycles and painted at least one illusionistic ceiling, his most significant contribution to Dutch painting was his joint leadership, with Terbrugghen, of the Utrecht followers of Caravaggio. Rembrandt's use of Caravaggesque devices in his early works derives in large part from his knowledge of Honthorst's paintings. Honthorst's brother Willem van Honthorst (1594-1666), who was also an accomplished painter, sometimes worked with him.
Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, with His Wife Amalia van Solms and Their Three Youngest Daughters (1647)
The Merry Fiddler (1623, 108x89cm) _ Honthorst’s native city of Utrecht, the primary Catholic stronghold in the predominantly Protestant Netherlands of the seventeenth century, had unusually close ties to Rome. Consequently, many painters from Utrecht traveled to Rome, and Honthorst was no exception. He made his artistic pilgrimage between 1610 and 1612 and remained in Rome for some time, enjoying a considerable reputation. By 1620, he was back in Utrecht, where he (and Dirck van Baburen, also newly returned from Rome) introduced into northern painting the single half-length genre figure. These life-size figures included musicians, shepherds and shepherdesses, and peasants, often depicted enjoying themselves while engaging the spectator. The idea, which met with great success, was apparently borrowed from Bartolomeo Manfredi, an Italian follower of Caravaggio, whom the artists might have known in Rome.
This painting is Honthorst’s earliest known example of the half-length type. The artist has emphasized the volume of the violinist and heightened the illusionistic effect by placing the bulky figure behind a window ledge and extending his arm toward the viewer. Honthorst here employs Caravaggio’s characteristic palette, the vitality and nearness of his figures, and the strong contrasts between light and dark, innovations that were quite new to northern art. What Honthorst contributed to Caravaggio’s pictorial strategies is the directness with which his figure appeals to the viewer, almost proffering an invitation to join in the fun.
The violinist’s outdated, theatrical costume and the suggestive symbols he holds might have carried specific associations to the seventeenth-century viewer that are now lost to us. Furthermore, The Merry Fiddler might have originally had a pendant. The Flute Player in Schwerin shares the dimensions, the height of the windowsill, the space in front of the painting, and the musical subject with The Merry Fiddler. Whether or not a further meaning was intended, The Merry Fiddler, alone or as part of a pair, was certainly intended to convey delight — in wine, music, and life.
Samson and Delilah (1617‚ 129x94cm) _ The most important and successful of the northern Caravaggisti was the Utrecht painter Gerrit van Honthorst. Perhaps as early as 1610, he followed the path taken by many of his colleagues and departed for Rome. While there, he quickly received the recognition that would continue throughout his career. It was also in Rome that Honthorst developed his ability to turn Caravaggio's "dramatic patterns of natural light and shadow into nocturnal scenes with cleverly rendered effects of artificial illumination." This ability earned him the Italian nickname Gherardo delle Notti (Gerard of the Nights). Few paintings make a better case for such a nickname than Samson and Delilah. The bright flame atop the candle held by the heroine's accomplice dramatically illuminates just enough of the darkened room to enable Delilah to cut the long locks of the sleeping Samson's hair. Honthorst painted Samson and Delilah during his years in Rome, and at least one scholar has suggested that "this painting might very well be Honthorst's earliest Roman work and not from his more mature years. In spite of its potential for dramatic effect, the subject was rarely painted by the northern Caravaggisti. Based on Judges 16, the scene shows the Philistine woman Delilah, assisted by her servant, cutting the source of Samson's strength-his hair-while he dozes. This event took place only after Delilah, Samson's lover, had been bribed by her countrymen to find out his secret. Afterwards, Samson could offer little resistance against the Philistines who blinded and imprisoned him.
Mars, God of War (1624‚ 90x74cm) _ The figure in this painting can be identified as Mars, the brutal and aggressive god of war from Roman mythology. Many art historians believe that the painting is a fragment of a larger work, an opinion prompted by the fact that the torch and sword are cut off by the right edge of the canvas, the god's elbow by the left, and that the figure seems squeezed into the space. These concerns were outlined in a letter by Nicolson to the work's previous owners. I am most impressed by the tilt of the sword and the way the light is managed in this area, and also by the way the strap, crossing the chest, follows the contours of the body in a subtle and sophisticated manner. I am a little puzzled by the subject. Honthorst was not in the habit of painting simple figures of mythological subjects, (I take it this is the figure of Mars), and considering that it is a finished painting and not a study for a figure, that the right elbow, sword point and fire br and, are cut off by the frame and the dimensions are quite small for a mythological subject, it could be a fragment of a much larger horizontal picture. It may never be known if this work in its current format was part of a much larger, multi-figured composition, or whether the artist merely made minor adjustments along the edges of the canvas. This work also dates from the 1620s and provides onlookers with a close-up view of the god against a stark, undefined backdrop. Honthorst provided an immediacy to his figure that is enhanced by the powerful and dramatic chiaroscuro.
by the Shepherds (1622, 164x190cm) _ This painting probably came from
the Stadtholder's collection and during the 18th century hung in the Carthusian
church of Saint Barbara in Cologne. Honthorst was one of the Stadtholder's
court artists who had studied in Italy and worked in the Baroque style.
Chapter 2 tells about the shepherds going to adore Jesus on the night
of his birth:
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
Childhood of Christ (1620) _ Using a single candle light in the center of the picture is a characteristic feature of Honthorst's paintings.
Christ before the High Priest (1617, 272x183cm) _ detail _ Honthorst, like Ter Brugghen, was a student of the history painter Abraham Bloemaert in Utrecht and also went to Rome. Unlike Ter Brugghen, however, he there achieved an international reputation, working for nobles and princes of the Church. The Italians called him Gherardo delle Notti, - Gerard of the Nocturnes - and this painting, made for the Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani in whose palace Honthorst stayed, explains why. On his return north of the Alps Honthorst was so famous that he was invited to England by Charles I, for whom he painted mythological subjects and many portraits. He continued to receive commissions from royalty in Holland, executing portraits and allegorical decorations for Prince Frederick Hendrik of Orange, and in 1635 he sent the first of a long series of historical and mythological narratives to Christian IV of Denmark. The exiled Queen of Bohemia, Elisabeth Stuart and her daughters were among his many students in The Hague.
Where Ter Brugghen in The Concert uses candlelight to create a scene of dreamlike enchantment, Honthorst employ it to lend veracity and dramatic tension to a biblical story (Matthew 26:57-64). After his capture on the night of the Agony in the Garden, Jesus is taken for interrogation and trial before the High Priest Caiphas, where two false witnesses - the shifty-looking men behind Caiphas - speak against him. Within the vast composition - in scale and format like an altarpiece but never intended for one - the visibility of the life-size figures depends entirely on that single candle flame. Its gleam unifies the whole, by giving the impression of illuminating the entire room with evenly decreasing intensity until its force is spent in the dark, and by justifying the reddish cast of all the colors It allows the two principal characters to stand out more solidly in relief and in greater detail than the others. It focuses attention on their poses, gestures and expressions. It picks out the few significant accessories, notably the books of the Law and the rope by which Christ is tied, and it creates the solemn and threatening atmosphere of a nighttime interrogation.
Through his mastery of the physical effects of illumination from a single source, Honthorst is also able to make symbolic points. Christ's white robe, torn from his shoulder when he was made prisoner, reflects more light than the priest's furred cloak - so that light seems to radiate from him. Though submissive, Christ is without question the main subject of the painting, the Light of the World and the Son of God.
Concert on a Balcony (1624, 168x178cm) _ Besides religious and mythological scenes Honthorst painted in the 1620s in Utrecht at least one illusionistic ceiling, the Musical Group on a Balcony, which was done for his own house in Utrecht. The painting is the earliest existing Dutch illusionistic painted ceiling. Equally innovative for Holland is his illusionistic Concert on a Balcony. The 'trompe-l'oeil' picture, which decorated the Palace of Nordeinde, shows, in steep perspective, life-size musicians and their companions in an architectural setting, but this one was intended as illusionistic wall not a ceiling. The prototype for Dutch illusionistic fields of walls and ceilings is found in decorative schemes executed for high-placed patrons in Italy. The unmistakable source for Honthorst's illusionistic paintings is Orazio Gentileschi and Agostino Tassi's life-size trompe-l'oeil frescoes, painted in 1611-1612 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese's garden 'Casino of the Muses', now part of the Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi in Rome. Honthorst had ample opportunity to study them when he worked for the Cardinal.
Margareta Maria de Roodere and Her Parents (1652, 140x170cm) _ The social status of the painters in the Dutch Republic varied from day laborers through independent masters to well-rewarded court artists such as Michiel van Miereveld and Gerrit van Honthorst, who specialized in portraiture of high officials. In one such portrait, van Honthorst represented yet another type of painter: a well-to-do amateur who painted for pleasure. Several women became accomplished painters in this way. Most master was men, but more than a dozen women are recorded as having attained master's status, most famously Judith Leyster [1609-1660].
Musical Group on a Balcony (1622, fresco) _ Honthorst was born in Utrecht; there he was Abraham Bloemaert's student. He is said to have been in Rome as early as 1610-12, but he is not documented there until 1616. Nothing is known about his artistic activity until the last year of the decade, and not a work painted before he went to south has been discovered. He became the best-known Dutch follower of Caravaggio. A typical example of his religious paintings executed in Italy is the Christ before the High Priest (National Gallery, London). Though Honthorst continued to depict scenes from the Scripture after his return to Utrecht in 1620, the religious pictures he made in Rome are from many points of view the climax of his work as a painter of biblical themes. During the 1620s he painted works in the Arcadian mode which shows that he had looked at the Carracci as well as the Caravaggio while in Italy. Besides religious and mythological scenes he painted at least one illusionistic ceiling, Musical Group on a Balcony, which was done for his own house in Utrecht. The painting, only partially preserved, is the earliest existing Dutch illusionistic painted ceiling.
Supper Party (1619) _ Honthorst's genre pictures of lighthearted gatherings had a great impact in Utrecht. He made such pictures while he was still in Italy. His Supper Party, painted during his last months in Italy, set a precedent for similar scenes done in the 1620s at Utrecht where artists favored the erotic as well as the ascetic side of Baroque art. This is already evident in Honthorst's Supper Party where the person who covers the light has the effect of 'repoussoir': the large dark figure in the foreground causes, by contrast, the merrymakers behind him to recede in space, and thus enhances the illusion of depth. The second advantage is the vivid reflection of light thrown on the figures and, in particular, on their faces, which are painted in reddish-yellow colors This helps Honthorst to overcome the harshness found in the work of other Caravaggio followers.