Gerrit van Honthorst (1592–1656 ): A Boy Blowing on a

Gerrit van Honthorst (1592–1656 ): A Boy Blowing on a

10/5/2021, 4:03:01 PM
Gerrit van Honthorst (1592–1656 ): A Boy Blowing on a Firebrand, 1621–1622, Oil on canvas, 75,5 × 64,5 cm, Art Institute of Chicago In the present work by Gerrit van Honthorst, gazing at the viewer, a young boy blows on a hot ember in order to light the candle he holds. He wears a slashed doublet and a slouched feathered beret, part of 16th-century costume that would have already been antiquated at the time this painting was made. The flying sparks and exaggerated light and shadows on the boy’s face cast him as a character or an archetype rather than an individual, which is fitting, as the subject matter—a boy trying to control fire with his breath—had been around for centuries. These paintings belongs to the tradition of work made to display an artist’s skill at imitating nature, a trope reimagined by late Renaissance painters in Italy like Jacopo Bassano and particularly by El Greco, who gave it new visual form. With his painting, Gerrit van Honthorst both announced his abilities and sought to whet the interest of a sophisticated international clientele. (Art Institute of Chicago)

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