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The Gamblers

Caravaggio’s use of bright lights and dark shadows inspired other Dutch artists. Gerrit van Honthorst, who painted this picture, also studied in Rome.
The Denial of Saint Peter, c. 1620–25, oil on canvas, The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund

Pictures of everyday life became more popular in the seventeenth century. This painting also shows a lively scene of gamblers gathering around a table. Take a moment to compare this image to Ter Brugghen’s.
Master of the Procession Gathering of Gamblers with Hurdy-Gurdy Player, c. 1660, oil on canvas, The John R. Van Derlip Fund

Two of the men in the painting wear armor. Ter Brugghen painted light reflecting off of this shining surface.

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Realism and Light

The painter, Hendrick Ter Brugghen, was born in Deventer, Holland, in 1588. However, the years he spent in Italy, from 1604 to 1614, most influenced his artwork.

In Italy, Ter Brugghen fell under the spell of the great artist Michelangelo da Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s art seemed different from the art of his contemporaries. He was interested in showing the gritty side of life, so he made his figures looks as realistic as possible. Many of his subjects were religious figures. But others were ordinary people, such as gypsies, musicians, and gamblers. Undoubtedly, Ter Brugghen’s choice of subject matter was no coincidence.

Ter Brugghen was also intrigued by the way Caravaggio depicted light. Caravaggio’s paintings were full of contrasting bright lights and dark shadows, which gave them added drama. His influence can be seen in The Gamblers, where the brightness gleaming from the men’s armor contrasts with the dark shadows on their faces, their clothing, and the table.

May 2008