- Was Hendrick ter Brugghen a melancholic?
- Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art
- Volume | Issue number
- 1 | 2
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
Very few contemporary authors have written about the Utrecht painter Hendrick ter Brugghen. This makes the few words devoted to him by Joachim von Sandrart particularly precious to scholarship, especially because Sandrart characterized him as a man with "profound but melancholic thoughts" ("tiefsinnige jedoch schwermütige Gedanken"). In this article I will consider whether Sandrart’s words should be viewed as a mere topos meant to stress Ter Brugghen’s natural abilities as an artist in accordance with the concept of melancholia - the temperament most closely linked to scholarship and creativity - or whether Sandrart used these terms to characterize Ter Brugghen’s personality. After examining every instance of Sandrart’s terminology that relates to melancholy, I have concluded that Sandrart did indeed intend to categorize Ter Brugghen’s personality as melancholic, and that this assessment was based on his acquaintance with the artist during a stay in Utrecht in the 1620s. At the same time, I aim to demonstrate that Ter Brugghen was himself well acquainted with the concept of the melancholic temperament and that this impinges on our understanding of some of his works today, including a possible self-portrait that has hitherto been ignored.
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