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Gerrit van Honthorst (1590 - 1656)

Lot 31: Gerrit van Honthorst , Utrecht 1590 - 1656 a laughing violinist, half-length, wearing a blue and yellow striped doublet and a plumed cap, with a violin tucked under his arm oil on canvas


January 29, 2009
New York, NY, US

More About this Item


signed and indistinctly dated upper right GHonthorst.fe 16 [24] ( GH in compendium) oil on canvas


measurements note 31 3/4 by 25 1/4 in.; 81 by 64.2 cm.


San Francisco, M.H de Young Memorial Museum, 1952-55 (lent by F.L. Brandeis);
London, Johnny Van Haeften, Winter Exhibition of 17th Century Dutch and Flemish Old Master Paintings, 1st -23rd December, 1999;
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 29 November 2003 - 24 February 2004; Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria 11 March - 30 May 2003, Darkness and Light; Caravaggio and his World, pp. 140-141, no. 31 reproduced in colour;
London, Robilant and Voena, Dutch and Flemish Caravaggesque Paintings from the Koelliker Collection, 2005, pp. 42-45.


T. von Frimmel, Verzeichnis der Gemälde in Gräflich Schönborn-Wissentheid'schen, Pommersfelden 1894, p. 93, under no. 254;
B.J.A. Renckens, 'Der Fantasie der Copiisten', in Kunsthistorische Mededeelingen, vol. I, 1947, p. 65, reproduced fig. 7;
B.J.A. Renckens, 'Picture Forgeries', in The Scottish Art Review, vol. II, no. 2, 1948, p. 29, reproduced fig. 7;
B. Nicolson, Hendrick Terbrugghen, London 1958, p. 127, under no. E112 (under rejected attributions and probably by Honthorst);
J.R. Judson, Gerrit van Honthorst, The Hague 1959, pp. 230-1, no. 169;
B. Nicolson, 'Gerrit van Honthorst', review of Judson's monograph, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CII, no. 683, February 1960, p. 81, ft. 4;
H. Braun, Gerard und Willem van Honthorst, Ph.D., diss., University of Göttingen, 1966, p. 195;
B. Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, Oxford 1979, p. 59, reproduced fig. 139;
B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, vol. I, Turin 1989, pp. 49, 126;
S.N. Vsevlozhskaya and I.V. Linnik, Caravaggio and his followers in Soviet Museums, St. Petersburg 1993, p. 114;
J.R. Judson and R.E.O. Ekkart, Gerrit van Honthorst, Doornspijk 1999, pp. 186-187, no. 236, reproduced plate 113 and on the cover;
R. Beresford, Darkness and Light. Caravaggio and his World, exhibition catalogue, Sydney 2003, pp. 140-141, no. 31, reproduced in colour;
J. Bikker in Dutch and Flemish Caravaggesque Paintings from the Koelliker Collection, London 2005, pp. 42-45, reproduced in colour, p. 43.


Emil Goldschmidt, Frankfurt-am-Main;
His deceased sale, Berlin, Lepke, April 27, 1909, no. 61, reproduced plate 37;
F.L. Brandeis Collection, Qualicum Beach, British Columbia;
On loan to the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, 1952-55;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, April 10, 1970, lot 112, to Weber;
Thence by descent to Marie-Louise Critchley-Waring, London;
Her sale ("The Property of a Lady"), London, Sotheby's, July 8, 1999, lot 39 (for £309,500);
With Johnny van Haeften and Otto Naumann, London and New York;
John Schaeffer Collection, Sydney;
With MDG Fine Art, London;
With Marco Voena, London, from whom acquired by the present owner.


Executed in 1624, this is the prime version of a composition that exists in at least one other autograph example by Honthorst; the second version, in the Schönborn collection at Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden, is of broadly similar dimensions, also on canvas, but is unsigned.υ1 At Pommersfelden it hangs with a Girl Counting Money, of exactly the same dimensions; she looks to the right and, as Judson suggests, clearly interacts with the Violinist so that it would appear they were conceived as pendants.υ2 In view of this it is likely that the present, original version was also once accompanied by such a pendant, identical to the Pommersfelden Girl Counting Money or otherwise. Honthorst's importance to northern European genre painting should not be underestimated. After his return from Italy, where he spent the majority of the 1610s, he developed the tradition of low-life genre scenes that had their origins in the paintings of Bartolommeo Manfredi and his fellow followers of Caravaggio in Rome. Along with Hendrik Ter Brugghen (1588-1629) and Dirck van Baburen (c. 1594-1624), Honthorst was largely responsible for bringing this new style to the Netherlands and, in particular, to Utrecht whose school of painting would be dominated by it throughout the following decade.

Honthorst's first single-figure musicians, a Singing Elder with a flute in Schwerin and another Merry violinist in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, date from 1623, the year before he painted the present work.υ3 In the form of a flute, a violin or any type of instrument, music is a common factor in these and indeed the majority of such works by the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti. Since the Renaissance, any reference to music in painting had been interpreted as a symbol of love. Here, the sexual overtones are quite explicit; the violinist's vulgar hand gesture, lewd expression and clamorous laugh clearly point at a female counterpart, who would surely have been the subject of the painting's pendant. The date has been slightly abraded since the painting last appeared at auction at Sotheby's London in 1999 (see Provenance) so that the 1624 is no longer absolutely clear. 1. See Judson, under Literature, 1999, pp. 186-7, under cat. No. 236, reproduced plate 112.
2. Judson however is not certain that the Pommersfelden Girl counting money is autograph. However, even if it is not, he maintains that the concept must certainly go back to a lost Honthorst that was paired with the Pommersfelden Merry violinist; see Judson, 1999, pp 172-3, no. 214.
3. See Judson, 1999, p. 192, no. 244, reproduced plate 137, and pp. 190-91, no. 241, reproduced plate 241, respectively.

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