Dirck van Baburen, Young man with a jew's harp, 1621, Centraal Museum, Utrecht

By Alte Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

Alte Pinakothek, Bavarian State Painting Collections

Young man with jew's harp (1621) by Dirck van BaburenCentraal Museum


Musicians and music-making societies were exceedingly popular picture themes of the Utrecht Caravaggists. They came in different types, for example in genre painting, but also in history painting and took the following steps often play a central role within the interpretation of the work.The single-figure representations of the musicians, which Baburen used from 1621 on in the the north of the Netherlands, were adopted by other artists and were were also exceptionally popular in other cities such as Haarlem and Leiden.

His "Jew's harp player", made in 1621, is one of the earliest examples. Subsequently, these pictures of musicians were adopted by other artists and were also used in other cities such as Haarlem and Leiden.

The Concert (about 1626) by Hendrick ter BrugghenThe National Gallery, London


Music played an integral role in 17th-century life, regardless of one’s social status. Many aristocrats and cardinals, who were among the artists’ clients, possessed extraordinary knowledge in this field. The ability to play several musical instruments reflected well on a gentiluomo.

The sense of detachment created by the composition, in which the backs of two of the musicians face outward, gives viewers the impression that they are taking the group by surprise. The players notice the interruption and glance out from the canvas without stopping what they are doing. They are not performing for an audience, but are rather in the midst of practice. The viewer is thus given a glimpse into a private scene.

Just a few years before the completion of this painting, Hendrick ter Brugghen had also begun to devote himself to the portrayal of musicians. The atmospheric lighting of this scene makes Ter Brugghen’s The Concert a depiction of music-making characterized by an especially tender and intimate ambience that clearly differs from the images of music and revelry at social gatherings around a table painted by other Caravaggisti.

Credits: Story

The contents were created in connection with the exhibition "Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe" at the Alte Pinakothek München. Click here to discover the world of the Caravaggisti.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe
Explore the World of the Caravaggisti!
View theme
Google apps