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Hendrick ter Brugghen

The Hague? 1588 - 1629 Utrecht

Hendrick ter Brugghen was born in 1588, probably in The Hague. His parents, Jan Egbertsz. ter Brugghen and Feysgen Dircx, came from Utrecht, but his father had been bailiff of the States of Holland since about 1585, and we may assume that his family lived with him in The Hague. Jan ter Brugghen is last recorded there in 1602. A year later he was living in the village of Abcoude, halfway between Utrecht and Amsterdam, as assistant marshall of the Nederkwartier district. By that time Hendrick ter Brugghen may already have been apprenticed to Abraham Bloemaert, although it is unclear exactly when and for how long Ter Brugghen studied with him.

In the spring of 1607 a certain "Henrick ter Brugge" is named as a cadet in the army of Count Ernst Casimir of Nassau-Dietz. This soldier is probably our artist, whom we sometimes find addressed as the "honorable and steadfast" (erent-festen) Hendrick ter Brugghen, an epithet used only for soldiers. Assuming that the cadet and the artist are one and the same person, 1607 would then be the first year in which he could possibly have traveled to Italy. After his return to Utrecht in the fall of 1614, Ter Brugghen himself declared that he had spent "several" (ettelicke) years in Italy. If there is any truth in Cornelis de Bie's statement that Ter Brugghen met Rubens in Rome, then Ter Brugghen must have left soon after April 1607, since Rubens returned to Antwerp in October 1608. Unfortunately, there are no documents concerning Ter Brugghen's years in Italy. The only thing we know for certain is that in the summer of 1614 he stayed in Milan with the Utrecht painter Thijman van Galen. From there they traveled home through Switzerland, crossing the Alps through the St. Gotthard Pass, in the company of the Utrecht painter Michiel van der Zande and his apprentice Frans van Knibbergen.

In Utrecht Ter Brugghen and Van Galen were registered as master painters in 1616. In October of that same year Ter Brugghen married Jacomijna Verbeeck, the stepdaughter of his elder brother, the innkeeper Jan Jansz. ter Brugghen. Their marriage took place in the Reformed Church, where at least four of their eight children were later baptized. Hendrick ter Brugghen himself was probably not a member, however, and his wife did not join the congregation until a month after her husband's death. We may assume that Ter Brugghen considered himself a Protestant but that he rejected orthodox Calvinist principles. His treatment of explicitly Catholic subjects in his paintings suggests that he was not unsympathetic to their message.

At the time of her marriage the bride lived with her mother and stepfather in het Casteel van Antwerpen (The Castle of Antwerp), one of Utrecht's most prominent public houses, situated on the Oudegracht. Hendrick ter Brugghen lived in rented quarters in the Korte Lauwerstraat, and for the first ten years of their marriage they stayed in that neighborhood. By 1626 they had moved to the Snippevlucht, a narrow street in the center of town, not far from his brother's inn. There he rented a large house named de Ringh (The Ring) from the notary and councilor Johan Wtewael, brother of the painter Joachim Wtewael.

When in the summer of 1627 Peter Paul Rubens visited Utrecht he stayed at het Casteel van Antwerpen. According to Ter Brugghen's son, Richard ter Brugghen, who in 1707 published a pamphlet defending his late father's reputation as an artist, Rubens paid Ter Brugghen a visit while in Utrecht. Richard boasted that the great Antwerp master had said that on all his travels through the Netherlands he had met only one real painter: Hendrick ter Brugghen. Whether or not these were in fact Rubens's words, Ter Brugghen's reputation is confirmed by the prices his paintings fetched at auction during the seventeenth century. Soon after the painter's death, the prince's secretary, Constantijn Huygens, listed him among the great masters of the Dutch Republic. It is unfortunate, however, that we know so little about the thoughts, opinions, and personality of this extraordinary master. Joachim yon Sandrart, who knew him during his last years, later wrote that he was a man of "profound but melancholy thoughts."

Hendrick ter Brugghen died on 1 November 1629 at the age of forty-two, during an epidemic of the plague. He was buried in the Buurkerk. He left his wife pregnant, and when a daughter was born in March 1629 she was named Henrickgen, after her father.

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