The work of Caravaggio had a profound effect on a great number of artists living and working in Rome during the early seventeenth century. Simultaneously, painters from northern Europe were becoming increasingly interested in studying Italy’s rich cultural heritage, and great numbers began to make journeys through the country to study and learn. Caravaggio's revolutionary naturalism, chiaroscuro and dramatic lighting effects consequently became highly significant, especially for a group of painters from Utrecht, most notably Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629), Gerrit van Honthorst (1592-1656) and Dirck van Baburen (c. 1594-1624).
This intriguing Concert, displaying many of the hallmarks of Caravaggesque influence, is also likely the work of a northern European artist who had been able to study the Roman painters first-hand, or was deeply influenced by artists returning from the city who worked in the painter’s pioneering style. The proliferation of music-making subjects, however, also found an established prototype in the Netherlands with earlier artists like Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) and Cornelis van Haarlem (1562-1658), producing numerous works depicting elegant companies engaged in playing and singing music during the second-half of the sixteenth century.
The artist of the present picture seems to have been familiar with typical details associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti. The hands of the guitar player, for example, are eloquently modelled and the modulation in tone toward the end of the fingers is a characteristic feature observed in equivalent figures by ter Brugghen. Likewise, the elaborate costumes of the figures and the softly modelled features of the young woman are reminiscent of Honthorst’s genre scenes, like his Musical Group by Candlelight (Copenhagen, National Gallery of Denmark, inv. no. 378).
Musical subjects such as this were particularly popular amongst the Northern followers of Caravaggio who often, as here, placed near life-sized figures at half-length, engaged in playing instruments and singing. This compositional type had been established by paintings like Caravaggio’s The Musicians, included in the 1627 inventory of Cardinal Maria del Monte (now New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 1952.52.81).