Lot 72
  • 72

Gerrit van Honthorst

30,000 - 40,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Gerrit van Honthorst
  • Samson and Delilah
  • Pen and brown ink and gray wash, heightened with white, partly oxidized, over black chalk, within partial brown ink framing lines 


Unframed. An old vertical crease at center. Upper edge has been slightly cut. Some light foxing, and two stains at lower corners from where drawing was fixed to old mount. White oxidised in parts but otherwise condition is fine.
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Catalogue Note

Honthorst's drawing style owes much to his Utrecht origins.  He studied there, from around 1606, with Abraham Bloemaert, and must also have been extremely familiar with the work of Joachim Wtewael. Around 1613, Honthorst travelled to Italy to further his training, and was greatly impressed by the innovative works by Caravaggio and his followers that he saw there. Having gained a considerable reputation - not to mention a nickname, Gherardo della notte, that reflected his approach to composition, and the patronage of Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani, Cardinal Scipione Borghese and Cosimo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany - he returned home to Utrecht in 1620.1

Honthorst's professional success continued unabated, and during the 1620s he established a thriving studio in Utrecht, which even attracted the attention of Rubens, who came to visit in 1627. The artist was also in demand abroad.  In 1628, he travelled to London to paint the famous King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria as Apollo and Diana (Hampton Court), and two years later he became court painter to the King and Queen of Bohemia (then resident in The Hague), and was mentioned by Constantijn Huygens, the secretary to the Stadholder Frederik Hendrik, as one of the most important history painters in the Netherlands. In 1635, he received the first of a number of major commissions from King Christian IV of Denmark, for his castle at Kronborg.

Abraham Bloemaert - teacher not only of Honthorst but also of that other leading Utrecht Caravaggist, Hendrick Terbrugghen - was a prolific draftsman, but studies by all the artists in this group remain rather rare.  Honthorst appears to have drawn more than many of his colleagues, but even so, Judson and Ekkart's catalogue raisonnĂ© lists only 58 surviving drawings.  A few more have subsequently appeared, such as the recently identified Prophetess of Good Fortune (acquired by the Louvre in 20062), but hardly any substantial drawings by the artist remain in private hands, so the present work is an important discovery.  

Stylistically, this powerful, boldly drawn image can be compared with another recently discovered work, The Idolatry of Solomon, now also destined for the Louvre.3 The drawing must have been made in connection with a painting - either as a finished modello or as a ricordo - but no related painting is known today.  It must, however, have resembled grandiose works of the mid-1620s, such as the Solon before Croesus (1624, Hamburg, Kunsthalle)4, and the drawing style is also consistent with works of that period; one of the most similar to this amongst Honthorst's other surviving drawings is the large, finished compositional drawing for the Hampton Court Charles I and Henrietta Maria as Apollo and Diana.5  Another comparable work is the Munich Mars and Venus, which Judson dates circa 1625.6

1. This account of Honthorst's life and career is derived from J.R. Judson and R.E.O. Ekkart's monographic study, Gerrit van Honthorst, Doornspijk 1999, passim

2. Inv. No. 54429

3. Sold, New York, Sotheby's, 23 January 2008, lot 162; currently on view at the Louvre as part of Georges Pebereau's promised gift to the museum.

4. Judson and Ekkart, op. cit., cat. no. 137, reproduced pl. X

5. Rotterdam, Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum; Judson and Ekkart, op. cit., cat. no. D 18

6. Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, inv. no. 9081; Judson and Ekkart, op. cit., cat. no. D 21