Federazione Italiana Mercanti d'Arte


Gerrit van Honthorst (1592 1656) workshop

Gerrit (or Gerard) van Honthorst
(Utrecht 1592 - 1656) workshop of

Oil painting on canvas
Frame in gilded wood
canvas 112 x 95 frame 124 x 107
Very good condition

The painting in question, made in the first part of the seventeenth century, depicts a very elegant "Nativity", that is the most important and celebrated event of Christianity. The scene is described in an impeccable way with the characters very close to the viewer who has the feeling of participating in the magical event.
The Holy Family receives the visit of two adoring shepherds with their gifts, a lamb clearly visible in the foreground and two hens with dark plumage.
The author avoids the traditional composition described in a wide range and rich in characters, opting for an essential and collected group, thus managing to create an atmosphere of extraordinary intimacy.
Very interesting is the choice of the pyramidal compositional scheme where the perfect balance is broken by the half-hidden face of St. Joseph caught in a pensive and detached attitude.
 The true protagonist of the painting is a magnificent Child attached to the Virgin's breast, with his eyes closed
In the center of the canvas he receives the adoration of his Mother and of the two shepherds who admire him with their gazes lowered towards him filled with devotion and wonder.
The plays of light that strike the Madonna and Child more decisively, making the two figures stand out on the canvas, are of extraordinary effectiveness and constitute the main pictorial prerogative of van Honthorst. His great ability to create the volumes of the characters thanks to the play of light and shadow is very present in this painting, where the different lighting of the figures also immediately reveals who are the protagonists and supporting actors of the scene.

Gerrit (or Gerard) van Honthorst, also known as Gherardo delle Notti (Utrecht, 4 November 1592 - Utrecht, 27 April 1656), was one of the most celebrated Dutch painters of the 17th century.
He initially trained with his father, a decorative painter, and later became a pupil of Abraham Bloemaert.
 After his apprenticeship he went to Rome, as was now customary for any Nordic painter who aspired to a complete education, where he studied the great masters and ancient art.
In Rome he lodged at Vincenzo Giustiniani's palace, where he painted Christ before the high priest (now in the National Gallery in London.
 Its Roman patron had an important collection of works of art painted by various artists such as Caravaggio and the Carracci brothers, and of which Honthorst was able to get acquainted in this way.
 He was mainly impressed by Caravaggio's painting, which inspired most of his later works to the point of being indicated as a Caravaggio painter.
He specialized in interior painting with fascinating scenes described in "night light" characterized by extraordinary artificial light effects, which earned him the epithet of Gherardo delle Notti.
His popularity in the Netherlands was such that he opened, in addition to the Utrecht studio, a branch in The Hague, where he painted portraits of the members of the court.
 A large number of disciples and assistants were employed in his workshops to meet the constant demands of his work.
Honthorst was a prolific artist and many are his workshop works. The most evocative are those in which he cultivates the Caravaggesque style, often tavern scenes with musicians, gamblers and people eating, as well as various depictions of the Nativity.
He was very skilled in the use of the chiaroscuro technique, often painting scenes lit by a single candle.
The painting published here, moreover of excellent pictorial yield and notable visual effect, must be placed in the production of his workshop.
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