Gerrit van Honthorst (Utrecht 1592-1656)
Gerrit van Honthorst (Utrecht 1592-1656)

Head of a smiling girl

Gerrit van Honthorst (Utrecht 1592-1656)
Head of a smiling girl
oil on canvas
17 x 14 in. (43.2 x 35.6 cm.)
Sir Frank Newsom-Smith and others; Christie's, London, 26 January 1951, no. 137, as 'Judith Leyster'.
with Arcade Gallery, London, 1953-54.
with D.M. Koester, New York and Switzerland, until 1966.
J.R. Judson, Gerrit van Honthorst: A discussion of his position in Dutch art (Utrechtse Bijdragen tot de Kunstgeschiedenis, VI), The Hague, 1959, p. 250, no. 200.
H. Braun, Gerard und Willem van Honthorst, Ph.D. diss., Göttingen, 1966, p. 233, no. 86, as 'circa 1630'.
B. Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, Oxford, 1979, pp. 61, 220, 241, pl. 143.
B. Nicolson, L. Vertova, Caravaggism in Europe, Torino, 1989, I, pp. 52, 128, 242; II, pl. 1306.
T.Döring, Studien zur Künstlerfamilie Van Bronchorst, Alfter, 1993, p. 73, note 253.
J.R. Judson, 'A New Honthorst Allegory: Can this be love?', Shop Talk: Studies in Honor of Seymour Slive, Cambridge, 1995, p. 128.
J.R. Judson, R. Ekkart, Gerrit van Honthorst 1592-1656, Ghent, 1999, p. 228, no. 294, fig. 176.
London, Arcade Gallery, Mannerist and Baroque Painting at the Arcade Gallery, 18 November - 24 December 1953, no. 11.
Worcester, Worcester Art Museum, 1979, no. 11.

Lot Essay

Gerrit van Honthorst, known as Gherardo delle Notti in Italy for his many nocturnal works exploring the effects of artificial illumination, was one of the best known of the Utrecht Caravaggisti together with Dirck van Baburen and Hendrick ter Brugghen. Honthorst first traveled to Italy around 1610-15 after his early training in the studio of Abraham Bloemaert, and quickly attracted the attention of such notable patrons as Vincenzo Giustiniani and Scipione Borghese in Rome; and Cosimo II de'Medici in Florence. Honthorst in turn was attracted to the dramatically tenebrist lighting of Caravaggio and of his closest Italian follower Bartolomeo Manfredi.

Honthorst left Rome to return to the Netherlands in 1620, becoming a member of the Guild of St. Luke in Utrecht in 1622. He quickly established a large and successful studio, and among his most talented pupils were Jan Gerritsz. van Bronchorst and Joachim von Sandrart.

The present painting is evidently a fragment of a larger composition, and was, at the time of its purchase by Professor Held, largely overpainted. The young woman subject was depicted in a yellow dress and the head of the helmeted man in the lower right corner was painted out, as were the figures seated on clouds in the background. The original composition is likely to have been a Merry Company, perhaps comparable to one dated 1623, which features a young female lute player with a similar expression and feathered cap (Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich). The model appears to be the same as the girl in Honthorst's Flea Hunt (The Dayton Institute).

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