collections
European

Hendrick ter Brugghen

Netherlands 1588-1629
The Singing Lute Player 80.0014

Ter Brugghen painted many genre scenes, or scenes of everyday life, mostly either "merry companies" or single figures, on a simple background in a closed compositional arrangement close to the picture plane, three-quarters in length, with dramatic or artificial light. Much has been written about the popularity of Dutch "merry company" paintings-depicting drunkeness, gambling, revelry, prostitution and lewd behavior-and their meaning for the strict, devout Protestants of the Northern Netherlands. Scholars suggest that behind the apparent jollity lurked an assumption that pleasure was wasteful and transitory. Ter Brugghen's affinity for the solitary musician was common among artists, from Italy and other countries, who emulated Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's style of painting. These Caravaggisti copied his dramatic torch-lit or candle-lit settings and brutally realistic style, particularly popular among painters in Ter Brugghen's hometown of Utrecht. However, what differentiates Ter Brugghen's The Singing Lute Player, is its self-contained quality, its removal from the viewer-a characteristic foreign to Caravaggio's work. Ter Brugghen's particular innovation was the silhouetting of figures against a light ground (a device later utilized by Jan Vermeer), tempered here by a more complex light-on-dark/dark-on-light arrangement. The Singing Lute Player is believed to be one of at least three original versions by Ter Brugghen based on one of only two authenticated Ter Brugghen drawings. This version is the only one presently in the United States.

 

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