Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe

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. 

For the first time in the Netherlands 

Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe brings the Rome of 1600 to 1630 to Utrecht. Presenting seventy masterpieces, this exhibition is the first to display the Utrecht Caravaggists alongside their European counterparts: the Italian painters Caravaggio, Bartolomeo Manfredi, Cecco da Caravaggio, Giovanni Antonio Galli (Lo Spadarino), Giovanni Serodine, Orazio Borgianni and Orazio Gentileschi, the Spaniard Jusepe de Ribera, the French Nicolas Régnier, Nicolas Tournier, Simon Vouet and Valentin de Boulogne, and the Flemish Gerard Seghers and Theodoor Rombouts.

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.

Utrecht Caravaggists

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.

Traveling exhibition

The exhibition starts in Utrecht and will then travel on to Munich (Germany):
Centraal Museum, Utrecht: 15 December 2018 to 24 March 2019
Alte Pinakothek, Munich: 17 April 2019 to 21 July 2019

Hendrick ter Brugghen, The Calling of St. Matthew, 1621
Hendrick ter Brugghen, The Calling of St. Matthew, 1621

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