Did Hendrick ter Brugghen revisit Italy? Notes from an unknown manuscript by Cornelis de Bie

by Christiaan Schuckman

The following article contains some additional information on Hendrick ter Brugghen supplementing an earlier article by Marten Jan Bok and Yoriko Kobayashi.' Attention is drawn to a hitherto unpublished portrait of Ter Brugghen, and new material is added to the discussion of a question which has occupied researchers for more than thirty years: did Hendrick ter Brugghen visit Italy a second time?

1. Hendrick ter Brugghen, Calling of St Matthew, signed and dated 1621. Canvas, 102 x 137 cm. Utrecht, Centraal Museum

2. Hendrick ter Brugghen, Doubting Thomas. Canvas, 108.8 x 136.5 cm. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

It was in 1952 that Roberto Longhi first suggested the possibility of a second Italian journey, and his proposition received Benedict Nicolson's support in his 1958 monograph on Ter Brugghen. The reason why Nicolson considered a second stay likely is that it would explain the similarity between works by Ter Brugghen and by the Italian artists Serodine, Strozzi and Saraceni. Nicolson reattributed to Ter Brugghen two paintings which until then had been tentatively given to Serodine: the St John the Evangelist in Turin, and the Christ at Emmaus in Vienna. Nicolson argued that in the latter work Ter Brugghen must have collaborated with a north Italian artist who was acquainted with developments in Genoa after 1618. Furthermore, he saw a correspondence between Ter Brugghen's Calling of St Matthew of 1621 (fig. 1) and Doubting Thomas of a few years later (fig. 2), and Strozzi's handling of the same themes in Genoa between roughly 1615 and 1620 (figs. 3, 4). Comparing Ter Brugghen's Berlin Claudius (fig. 5) and his Beheading of St Catherine, now in Norfolk (fig. 6), to Carlo Saraceni's Miracle of St Benon and Martyrdom of St Lambert of 1617-1618 in S. Maria dell'Anima in Rome (figs. 7, 8), Nicolson found it impossible to conceive that Ter Brugghen was not aware of these and other works from Saraceni's late Roman period.[2]

3. Bernardo Strozzi, Calling of St Matthew. Canvas, 139.1 x 187 cm. Worcester, Massachusetts, Art Museum

Since then advocates and opponents have disputed the merits of the theory that Ter Brugghen visited Italy a second time. The attribution of the Turin St John the Evangelist and the Vienna Christ at Emmaus has also been questioned repeatedly, eventually by Nicolson himself in his Ter Brugghen article of 1973.[3] Van Thiel also had his doubts about a second visit, and although acknowledging the affinity between the styles of Ter Brugghen and Serodine as manifested in the latter's Charity of St Lawrence in Casamari (fig. 9), he regarded this as an example of "parallelism: two independent developments issuing from the same source."[4] A similar parallelism would apply in the case of Domenico Fetti and Ter Brugghen, as examples of which Van Thiel cited Ter Brugghen's Adoration of the Magi in Amsterdam (fig. 10) and Fetti's Ecce Homo in Florence and Archimedes in Dresden (fig. 11).[5]

  • 9-4-2010

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