Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe
December 4, 2018
At the start of the Dutch Golden Age, Rome was the centre of the world. Young painters from across Europe made their way to the Eternal City, where – so the rumour went – the painter Caravaggio had caused a revolution. A new realism in the art of painting, unparalleled drama, grand gestures and mysteries of light: everyone wanted to see it for themselves. Among them were the Utrecht painters Dirck van Baburen, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst.
Together in Rome, but each remaining true to their roots
During the heyday of European Caravaggism, between 1600-1630, some 2700 artists were listed in Rome, of which 572 were foreigners. They all visited the same churches and viewed the same collections. They conversed with each other, and of course they painted! And they painted the same themes, used the same sources of inspiration, but the works they produced were nonetheless very different. Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe examines precisely these differences between the European followers of Caravaggio. By presenting the works on the basis of themes, it is immediately evident how each artist remained rooted in his own cultural background.
The Vatican has agreed to loan one of the masterpieces by the Italian painter Caravaggio (1571-1610) to Centraal Museum Utrecht. The entombment of Christ is a monumental altarpiece measuring more than three by two meters. It is one of the most important pieces in the collection of the Vatican museums, and is therefore rarely loaned. It is the first time for this work to be displayed in Holland. The work can be admired for just four weeks starting on 16 December 2018.
The exhibition comprises over sixty loan pieces, from museum and private collections across Europe and the United States, including the Vatican Museums, the Louvre (Paris), the Galleria degli Uffizi (Florence), the National Gallery of Art of London and the National Gallery of Art of Washington DC, but also from churches in Rome.
The paintings by the Utrecht Caravaggists are so recognisably Dutch, because they took Caravaggio’s realism one step further. Baburen and Ter Brugghen also painted the ugly sides of reality: monstrous noses, rotten teeth, dirty fingernails. Ter Brugghen even has the questionable honour of having painted the ugliest but also the most realistic baby in seventeenth century art.
Gerard van Honthorst was very successful in Rome. Honthorst’s invention of illuminating his scenes from a hidden, indirect source of light became so famous that he was nicknamed ‘Gherardo delle Notti’: Gerard of the Nights. Just like Dirck van Baburen, he received important commissions for altar pieces, and works by both artists were purchased by important collectors such as Cardinal Giustiniani, who was also a patron of Caravaggio. Their paintings were hung in the halls of his palazzo, next to those of the Italian, Flemish, French and Spanish painters.
The exhibitions follows the three Utrecht artists on their Roman adventure, demonstrates how this affected their work, and displays their most accomplished pieces.