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Dirck van Baburen

(Wijk bij Duurstede circa 1592/93 – 1624 Utrecht)

The Entombment. Etching after Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. 27.4 x 21.4 cm. Not in Hollstein. Alfred Moir, Caravaggio and his copyists, New York, 1976, cat. no. 5, p. 23 f., fig. 74.

Dirck van Baburen, who together with Gerard van Honthorst and Hendrick ter Brugghen was one of the Utrecht Caravaggists, made an intensive study of Caravaggio’s painting during his stay in Rome from 1611 to 1621. Commissioned by the Spanish king’s envoy in Rome, Pietro Cussida, van Baburen made three large-format paintings for his chapel in the church of San Pietro in Montorio, including an Entombment as an altarpiece. This work was inspired by Caravaggio’s Entombment of 1602/03 in the Chiesa Nuova, which he reproduced in the present print.

Van Baburen had not previously worked as an etcher; only one other sheet is known and that is the reproduction of the Entombment he himself painted for Cussida. The stylistic similarities are unmistakable and compelling. Both sheets are treated in the same rudimentary, straightforward etching technique. The protagonists are also very similar, as can be seen from their broad, simplified facial forms and the dramatic gestures of their hands. The fact that the only two etchings made by Baburen have almost the same format may be an indication that the artist offered the sheets as companion pieces in order to disseminate his own composition of the Entombment in print together with that of Caravaggio. In doing so he showed himself to be a worthy successor to his great predecessor who had died a few years earlier.

Seventeenth century reproductive prints after Caravaggio are few and far between compared to painted copies and variations of his works; no more than seven sheets were engraved after him by the end of the century. On the one hand, printmaking was less suited than painting to imitate the painterly innovations of his art and, on the other hand, printmaking in Rome during his lifetime was influenced to a greater extent by the Carracci, who favoured a different aesthetic (cf. Moir 1976, p. 24). One of the very first reproductive works after Caravaggio, van Baburen’s print is extremely rare. We know of only two other impressions (Museum of Fine Arts Boston, inv. no. 61.606, British Museum, inv. no. V,9.70). A vivid, tonal impression with thread margins, partly trimmed to the platemark. Minor ageing. otherwise in very fine, pristine condition. A small dry-stamp at the bottom right, probably of the collector Chevalier de Damery, Paris (Lugt 2862).

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