Exhibitions in 2015

Gerrit van Honthorst, The Happy Fiddler, 1623, on loan from Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Gherardo delle Notti: Bizzare Paintings and Merry Suppers

February 10 – May 24, 2015

The Uffizi Gallery opens the year’s “Art for a Year” program of exhibits with the first exhibition dedicated solely to the work of Gerrit van Honthorst, the Dutch Golden Age painter known in Italy as Gherardo delle Notti, and his presence in Italy in the early 17th century.

Van Honthorst (November 4, 1590 – April 27, 1656) early in his career visited Rome, where he, like other of his contemporaries, was heavily influenced by the recent art they encountered there. He was particularly influenced by the naturalism and eccentricities of Michelangelo da Caravaggio and soon became very successful painting in a similar style.


Gerrit van Honthorst, Supper with Lute Players, 1619-1620, oil on canvas – Uffizi Gallery, Florence… this can be called a bit “bizarre” if you observe the three figures on the right – what are they doing?

He became especially noted for his depiction of artificially lit scenes, receiving the nickname “Gherardo delle Notti” (Gerard of the Night).

His period in Italy lasted about 10 years, with a hasty departure from Rome in 1620. Following his return to the Netherlands, he became a leading portrait painter and represented the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti.


Gerrit van Honthorst, Vanitas, oil on canvas, circa 1618 – on loan from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The exhibition concentrates on this time in Italy, as it was a period in the artist’s life that was rich in works and in stylistic exploration. His success in interpreting Caravaggio’s style was quickly met with such success that his works had the honor of occupying important altars in Rome and in Genova. Soon, important collectors such as the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II, were interested in his work.

Thanks in part to Cosimo’s passion for Gherardo, the Uffizi Gallery today owns 5 beautiful paintings by von Honthorst, including three large ones of merry suppers (which set off the development of this type of painting in Italy and northern Europe). The Medici Ambassador in Rome, Piero Guicciardini, asked Gherardo in 1619 to paint the altar piece for his family chapel in Santa Felicita, the large Adoration of the Shepherds illuminated by candlelight that was a victim of the Mafia bomb at the Uffizi in 1993. A beautiful video projected directly on the work lets visitors see what has been lost of the painting.



The Adoration of the Shepherds was highly damaged in the car bomb of the Uffizi on May 1993. The video projection reconstructs the painting to give the viewer an idea of what has been lost.

The start of the exhibit begins with his early work in Rome, which still retains much of his own style with altar pieces from the Palazzo Reale in Genova and from private collections. The second phase, the better and more mature style for which he is known, contain the Florentine works of merry suppers as well as the Christ before the High Priest from London’s National Gallery. Particularly important are three large altar pieces from Genova, Rome and Albano on display in one of the largest rooms.

There are then works created immediately after his return to the Netherlands, including the Merry Fiddler at the top of this page, while the last section is dedicated to other painters who were in turn influenced by his own work. This includes both Italians as well as other Dutch painters, including his own teacher, Abraham Bloemaert, who devoted much of their careers to exploring the rendering of light on canvas. In this period, you’ll be able to see that Gherrit’s own work, got “lighter” or less dark after the time he spent in Italy.


Gerrit van Honthorst, Susanna and the Elders, 1655, on loan from Rome, Galleria Borghese

In the exhibit, Caravaggio is present with one work, the Tooth Puller, from the Palatine Gallery.

Enjoy your visit!