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New Acquisitions – Old Masters – Paintings by Baburen and Baegert

June 18, 2018

“The Violin Player,” 1623 by Dirck van Baburen, (Dutch, c. 1592/3 – 1624).
Signed and dated upper left: T. D. Baburen. F. Ao. 1623.
Oil on canvas: 80.4 x 67.1 cm.
The Cleveland Museum of Art.
Click on image to enlarge.

A recently rediscovered early 17th century Dutch Caravaggesque genre painting and late 15th century Descent from the Cross by a German master have entered the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art, respectively.

Dirck van Baburen’s Violin Player with a Wine Glass was featured on the cover of the Zurich, Switzerland-based auction house Koller’s September 22, 2017 Old Master Painting sale. The painting depicts a slightly inebriated musician with a chipped tooth and a glass of wine in his hand. According to the sale catalogue, the work had been in a private Swiss collection for “several generations.” Dr. Wayne E. Franits, who compiled the catalogue raisonné of the artist, authenticated the painting. Estimated at CHF 60,000-80,000, it sold for a hammer price of CHF 500,000 (CHF 595,000 with the buyer’s premium, or about $596,213). The picture appeared in March 2018 in Maastricht during TEFAF at the booth of the Amsterdam and Geneva-based dealer Salomon Lilian, from whom the Cleveland Museum purchased the work.

Paintings by the artist, who died in 1624, one year after the completion of the Cleveland Violin Player, are rare. The catalogue raisonné chronicles “42 authentic paintings, 29 associated with the artist and/or his workshop, approximately 200 rejected works, 18 that are lost, and lastly, 5 drawings that have been linked to Van Baburen directly or related to his paintings.”

The Rijksmuseum’s biography of the artist states:

“Most of Dirck van Baburen’s (ca. 1594/1595-1624) output is made up of history pieces and genre scenes. Around 1612, having studied under Paulus Moreelse in Utrecht, he visited Italy, remaining until about 1620. In Rome he was commissioned to decorate the San Pietro in Montorio chapel, which he completed with his friend and colleague David de Haen. Van Baburen’s work shows the influence of Caravaggio and the latter’s theatrical use of chiaroscuro. The Italian’s zoom-in effect, portraying subjects half-length, filling the picture, also inspired Van Baburen’s dramatic compositions. Back in Utrecht, he continued to paint in the same style, working closely with Hendrick ter Brugghen. Van Baburen, Ter Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst became known as the Utrecht Caravaggists.”

The catalogue for the 1997-98 exhibition Masters of Light: Dutch Painters in Utrecht during the Golden Age (an excellent resource) notes: “Dirck van Baburen died a bachelor and was buried in the Buurkerk in February 1624. He may have been a victim of the plague, which killed hundreds of Utrecht inhabitants that year.”

Derick Baegert, The Descent from the Cross, c. 1480-90, oil on oak panel, Dallas Museum of Art, Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Fund in memory of Dr. William B. Jordan.

The Descent from the Cross by the German master painter Derick Baegert (c. 1440–c. 1509), painted around 1480–1490, is a monumentally scaled panel that is, according the Dallas Museum of Art’s announcement:

“an exceptional example of Baegert’s distinctive style, which reflects the transitional period between medieval and Renaissance painting. As the inaugural acquisition of the Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Fund for pre-1700 European Art, this masterpiece of Northern European painting is the first work of its kind to enter the DMA’s holdings and is the first work by this artist to enter a US museum [emphasis added].

“Derick Baegert was a master of late Gothic painting, and The Descent from the Cross is a spectacular example of the technical and artistic acumen for which he was renowned during his lifetime and beyond,” said Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. “Beautifully preserved and stunning in its palette and details, The Descent drastically expands the ways we can share the history of medieval and Renaissance art with our audiences. It will be a powerful anchor in the galleries around which the Museum will continue to build its Old Master collection.”

Successful throughout his lifetime, Baegert was the head of a family of painters and became the master of a large workshop in the Rhineland area of Germany during the last third of the 15th century and first third of the 16th century. While he borrowed elements from Netherlandish art, his style remained close to that of the late Gothic and reflects a transition from the late medieval period to the early Renaissance. The Descent from the Cross was likely inspired by models produced by such Northern Renaissance masters as Rogier van der Weyden (Brussels, 1400–1464), to whom the work was mistakenly attributed in the early 19th century. At over five feet tall and three feet wide, this impressive, monumentally scaled oil on panel painting illustrates the lowering of Christ’s body from the cross, a subject the artist painted many times. The panel is thought to be the inside right wing of a large altarpiece of unknown origin that depicted scenes from the Passion of Christ.

A master of illusionistic realism, Baegert is known for highly expressive facial depiction and keen attention to minute details, which are evident in The Descent’s protagonists. Their faces possess the detail and individualism associated with portraiture. The Descent also features Baegert’s distinctive organization of space, in which figures are frequently placed on a shallow stage against a distant landscape without a middle ground. Renowned for his great technical virtuosity, Baegert adeptly used compositional elements such as sharply outlined figures and vibrant, contrasting colors to convey narrative drama and the emotional mood of the scene. In The Descent, luminous jewel tones contrast with Christ’s pale body to heighten the dramatic impact of the scene.

Baegert’s paintings reside today in such major international institutions as the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Alte Pinakotek in Munich, Musée royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels, Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Dortmund, and LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur in Munich, which now holds the largest collection of his work.






2 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard de Koster permalink
    June 18, 2018 6:45 PM


    Thanks for the mention regarding “Masters of Light: Dutch Painters in Utrecht during the Golden Age” I’ve purchased a copy today and look forward to the book’s arrival.

    Richard de Koster

    PS more importantly, thank you so much for your blog. I’ve enjoyed it for years.

    • June 18, 2018 7:05 PM


      Many thanks for your kind note. And, enjoy “Masters of Light” – the exhibition was superb.


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