Lot 52
  • 52

Hendrick Terbrugghen

300,000 - 400,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Hendrick Terbrugghen
  • Mucius Scaevola before Porsenna
  • oil on canvas
  • 72 x 87 3/8 inches


Most probably Hendrick Christiansz. Hoeffslager (circa 1580-1625);
His estate sale, Amsterdam, 19 March 1625, lot 45, for 44 guilders;
To Herman de Bisschop (baptised 1588-1637);
Private collection, North Italy;
With a Genoese art dealer;
Private collection, Lausanne;
Art market, Lausanne, by 1973;
With Gilberto Algranti, London by 1974.


London, Helikon, Exhibition of Old Masters, June-September 1974;
New York, Knoedler, in collaboration with Fine Arts International, London, Exhibition of Old Masters, 7 May - 6 June 1981, no. 7 (the present work was included in the catalogue but did not appear in the exhibition).


D.O. Obreen, Archief voor Nederlandsche Kunstgeschiedenis, VI, 1884-1887, p. 37 (cites a painting depicting  Marcus Mutius, Romeyn by Terbrugghen in Hoeffslager sale, without reference to the present work);
C. Baker "Hendrick Terbrugghen and Plein Air, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. L, April 1927, p. 196, (cites the Hoeffslager painting in connection with Terbrugghen's Emperor Claudius);
B. Nicolson, Hendrick Terbrugghen, The Hague 1958, p. 49  (cites the Hoeffslager painting in connection with Terbrugghen's Emperor Claudius);
B. Nicolson, "Terbrugghen Since 1960," in Album Amicorum J.G. Van Gelder, The Hague 1973, pp. 238-239, reproduced figs. 7 and 8 (detail), (as art market, Lausanne);
B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, 2nd edition, revised and enlarged by L. Vertova, Oxford 1979, p. 189;
G. Algranti, Exhibition of Old Masters, exhibition catalogue, London 1974 [np];
B. Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, London and Oxford 1979, pp. 98 and 211;
G. Algranti, Exhibition of Old Masters, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1981, no. 7, reproduced in color and detail in black and white;
R.W. Bissell, Orazio Gentileschi and the Poetic Tradition in Caravaggesque Painting, University Park, Pennsylvania, and London 1981, pp. 66 and 93 notes 30 and 31;
M. Marini, "Gli esordi del Caravaggio e il concetto di 'natura' nei primi decenni del Seicento a Roma. Equivoci del caravaggismo," Artibus et historiae, vol. 4, no. 2, 1981, reproduced p. 66, fig. 37 (incorrectly as with Knoedler Gallery, New York);
L.J. Slatkes, "Book reviews:  Benedict Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement...," in Simiolus, vol. XII, nos. 2/3, 1981-1982, p. 182 note 88 and and p. 183, note 89 (as datable to circa 1619);
C. Schuckman, "Did Hendrick ter Brugghen Revisit Italy?  Notes from an Unknown Manuscript by Cornelis de Bie," Hoogsteder-Naumann Mercury, no. 4, 1986, pp. 9-10, reproduced p. 15, fig. 14;
L.J. Slatkes, "Die Kunst des Hendrick ter Brugghen" in A. Blankert and L.J. Slatkes, Holländische Malerei in neuem Licht :  Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine Zeitgenossen, exhibition catalogue, Utrecht and Braunschweig 1986, p.49, reproduced fig. 44 (as art market, London);
M.J. Bok,  "Hendrick Jansz. ter Brugghen" in the previous publication, p. 71;
P. van Kooij, "Ter Brugghen, Dürer and Lucas van Leyden," Hoogsteder-Naumann Mercury, no. 5, 1987, pp. 15 and 19 note 9, reproduced p. 15, fig. 10 (as attributed to Terbrugghen and, incorrectly, as with Algranti, London);
L.J. Slatkes, "Rethinking ter Brugghen's Early Chronology," in R. Klessman, ed.,  Hendrick ter Brugghen und die Nachfolger Caravaggios in Holland.  Beiträge eines Symposium aus Anlaß der Ausstellung "Holländische Malerei in neuem Licht :  Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine Zeitgenossen," Braunschweig 1988, pp. 77 and 82, p. 83 notes 11 and 12, reproduced p. 80, fig. 98 (dating painting to  circa 1618-19);
J. Nieuwstraten, "Some Remarks on Ter Brugghen," in the previous publication, pp. 100-101 (as not by Terbrugghen, possibly by R. van Adelo);
G.J.M. Weber, "Ter Brugghen, Elsheimer, Poel and Rubens," Hoogsteder-Naumann Mercury, no. 7, 1988, p. 26;
B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, 2nd edition, revised and enlarged by L. Vertova, Turin 1989, vol. I, p. 189;
A. Garen, Mucius Scaevola vor Porsenna:  Frühneuzeitliche Auffassungen einer römischen Bürgertugend in der europäischen Malerei vom 15. - 18. Jahrhundert, Osnabrück 2003, vol. I, pp. 148-149, vol. II p. 29, no. 67, reproduced, vol. II, p. 29;
W. Prohaska, in E. Capon et al., Darkness & Light:  Caravaggio & His World, exhibition catalogue, Sydney and Melbourne, 2003, p. 100 and note 5;
L.J. Slatkes and W. Franits, The Paintings of Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1588-1629:  Catalogue Raisonné, Amsterdam and Philadelphia 2007, pp. 12-13,14, 29, 43,-44 and 142-144, no. A43, reproduced p. 348, pl. 42 (as location unknown);
P.H. Janssen, "Book Review:  Leonard J. Slatkes and Wayne Franits, The Paintings of Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1588-1629:  Catalogue Raisonné" in Simiolus, vol. XXXII, no. 4, 2006, pp. 315, 316 (as not by Terbrugghen).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work has not been very recently restored, but the work could probably be hung in its current state if the existing restoration were adjusted. The canvas has been lined using wax as an adhesive. The painting is made from three pieces of canvas; the upper two-thirds of the picture is one canvas with a join running through the knees of the king, and the bottom third consists of two canvases with a vertical join in the center of the picture. Restorations have been applied throughout the picture in order to diminish abrasions and some paint losses, particularly around the edges and across the canvas join. Because of the scale of the picture and the heavy canvas weave, some weakness has developed in the shadowed areas and darker colors. Very few restorations of any significance are visible under ultraviolet light, but it is probably safe to say that there are some fairly significant retouches in areas. Although a complete re-examination of the picture would ultimately lead to a finer image, cleaning the picture would reveal some areas where the paint layer is compromised.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

In Mucius Scaevola before Porsenna, Hendrick Terbrugghen, one of the most innovative of the Netherlandish followers of Caravaggio, has created a dramatic representation of this unusual subject from Roman history.  The setting is Rome circa 509 B.C. as the Etruscans were laying siege to the city.  In an attempt to assassinate Lars Porsenna, the Etruscan king,  Mucius Scaevola mistakenly killed Porsenna’s secretary and was immediately captured  by the enemy.  The king ordered him to be burned alive but in a gesture of defiance, Mucius thrust his right hand into the fire warning the king that he was just the first of 300 Romans who would pursue him.  Impressed by this act of Stoic virtue and, no doubt, by the thought of further attempts on his life, King Porsenna lifted the siege and withdrew.   Mucius was rewarded with a grant of land and given the name Scaevola, meaning "left-handed." 

The subject was rarely depicted in the Netherlands in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and art historians have searched for a prototype for the present work.  One of the few possible precedents is known only from Karel van Mander's description of a lost painting by Goltzius in his biography of the artist (see Literature, Slatkes and Franits, p. 142).  Here Terbrugghen shows the young Roman stretching out his arm so his fist is over the flame and glaring at the king.  His gesture is heightened and echoed by the bare arms of his captors.  The king points in his direction but seems to stare blankly into the distance, perhaps shocked by Mucius’s response.  The largest and most striking figure is the secretary; curled up with his limbs twisted, his head hanging down to the ground, his body blocks the entire lower left corner of the composition and seems almost to extend into our space.  Various sources have been suggested for the pose of the secretary, but the most compelling is Weber's proposal that is the body of St. John in the Baptist from the right wing of Rubens's Adoration of the Magi, in the St. Janskerk, Maline.1  Although Benedict Nicolson considered this a late picture, Leonard Slatkes’ and Wayne Franits’ argument  for a date of around 1620 is far more compelling.2  They compare it to the Christ Crowned with Thorns in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, dated 1620 and the Calling of Saint Matthew in the Musée d’art modern André Malraux, Le Havre.3  All three compositions are constructed on a narrow stage, the large figures crowded together.  They make emphatic, repetitive gestures, which Terbrugghen emphasizes, particularly in the present work and Christ Crowned with Thorns, by setting the figures’ bare arms against the darker drapery and background.  In addition, the figure standing at the right in the present work appears to be taken from the same model as the seated man in the center of the Calling of St. Matthew.4

The present work was first attributed to Terbrugghen by Benedict Nicolson in 1973 and was included by Blankert and Slatkes in the ground-breaking exhibition of 1986, Holländische Malerei in neuem Licht :  Hendrick ter Brugghen und seine Zeitgenossen (see Literature).  However, since then, some art historians have questioned the attribution. Franits suggests that only part of the composition may be by Terbrugghen, while Nieuwstraten and Janssen believe it to be the work of another artist entirely (see Literature).  

In 1625 an inventory was made of the collection of the late Hendrick Christiaensz. Hoeffslager prior to its being sold at the Orphan Chamber Court  in Amsterdam.  The sale took place on 19 March 1625 and lot 45 was described as “1 stuck van Marcus Mutius Romeyn van Hendrick ter Brugge  f44:--:-- ” [a depiction of Marcus Mucius Roman by Hendrick Terbrugghen 44 guilders].5  It was purchased by Herman de Bisschop (baptised 1588-1637).  Although without further evidence the Hoeffslager picture cannot be definitively identified as the present work, it seems extremely likely given the rarity of the subject during this period in the Netherlands.  That would make Mucius Scaevola before Porsenna the only painting by Terbrugghen to be sold at auction during his lifetime. 


1. G.J.M. Weber, op. cit.  A similar figure can be found in Guido Reni's Triumph of Samson, Pinoteca, Bologna, but the earlier date of the Rubens makes it a far more likely choice.  For a review of this issue see Slatkes and Franits, pp. 14 and 143.  At some point in the history of the painting, the lower quarter was cut off, removing the disturbing corpse.  It was later restored.  See Literature, Nicolson 1973 and Condition Report for futher details.
2.  Slatkes and Franits, pp. 14 and 143 and  Nicolson 1973, op. cit. 
3.  Slatkes and Franits, loc. cit.
4. Ibid.
5.  Montias Database of 17th Century Dutch Art Inventories, record no. 20617.