Mucius Scevolla in front of Porsenna by Dirck van Baburen

Lars Porsena was an Etruscan king known for his war against the city of Rome. During his siege of Rome, a Roman youth named Gaius Mucius sneaked into the Etruscan camp with the approval of the Senate, intent on assassinating Porsena. However, when Mucius came into the king’s presence, he could not distinguish Porsena from his secretary, who was similarly attired. Through misrecognition Mucius stabbed the secretary and then tried to flee. He was immediately captured by the Etruscans and brought before Porsena, whereupon Mucius bluntly declared his identity and his intent. He advised Porsena that he was merely the first of 300 Roman youths who would attempt such a deed, one after another until they succeeded. To prove his valour, Mucius thrust his right hand into a sacrificial fire, thereby earning for himself and his descendants the cognomen Scaevola. Astonished and impressed by the young man’s courage, Porsena gave Mucius his freedom and dismissed him from the camp. According to Livy, Porsena sought peace by treaty immediately afterward.

Artist: Dirck van Baburen
Title: Mucius Scevolla in front of Porsenna or Achille prepares to avenge the death of Patroclus
Français : Mucius Scevolla devant Porsenna ou Achille prépare à venger la mort de Patrocle
Date 1624
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions 204 × 287 cm (80.3 × 113 in)
Current location
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel

Dirck van Baburen
1595 – Feb 21, 1624

Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen (1595 – Feb 21, 1624) was a Dutch painter one of the Utrecht Caravaggisti. Dirck of Baburen was heavily influenced in Rome by Caravaggio’s style. He painted Biblical and mythological scenes, and genres with drinkers and musicians. His style is in line with Hendrick ter Brugghen’s, but holds a less pronounced personality. Few paintings by Dirck van Baburen have been preserved, which is explained by his early death.

Dirck van Baburen was probably born in Wijk bij Duurstede, but his family moved to Utrecht when he was still young. He was also known as Teodoer van Baburen and Theodor Baburen. The earliest reference to the artist is in the 1611 records of the Utrecht Guild of St. Luke as a pupil of Paulus Moreelse. Sometime between 1612 and 1615 he travelled to Rome. There, he collaborated with fellow countryman David de Haen and befriended the close follower of Caravaggio, Bartolomeo Manfredi. Baburen also came to the attention of the art collectors and patrons Vincenzo Giustiniani and cardinal Scipione Borghese, and possibly under their influence he received the commission to paint the altarpiece of the Entombment for the chapel of the Pietà in San Pietro in Montorio around 1617.

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In late 1620 Baburen returned to Utrecht, where he began painting genre scenes. Until his death in 1624 the painter, along with Hendrick ter Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst, helped establish the stylistic and thematic innovations now known as the Utrecht School of Caravaggisti.

Dirck van Baburen died in 1624, unmarried and not thirty years old, probably on the plague. He was buried on 28 February 1624 in the Buurkerk, a medieval church which now houses the Museum Speelklok. Around 1629, Constantijn Huygens noted Baburen as one of the important Dutch painters active in the early decades of the seventeenth century. After his death his fame blew quickly; Only in the twentieth century was a revaluation for his work going on.

Dirck van Baburen’s career was short, and only a few of his paintings are known today. He mostly painted religious subjects in Rome, including the San Pietro in Montorio Entombment that is indebted to Caravaggio’s version of the same subject in the Vatican Museums. Baburen also painted a Capture of Christ (Borghese Gallery) for Scipione Borghese and Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) for Vincenzo Giustiniani.

The Utrecht works made between 1621 as 1624, the final years of Baburen’s career, merged the visual characteristics learnt from Caravaggio and Manfredi into genre, mythological and history painting. Prometheus Being Chained by Vulcan (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), for example, adapts Caravaggio’s upside-down figure of St. Paul from the Conversion of St. Paul (Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome) for the position of the fallen Prometheus, who was punished for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals.

He was among the first artists to popularize genre subjects such as musicians and cardplayers. One of his best-known works is The Procuress (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). It depicts a man offering a coin for the services of a lute-playing prostitute while an old woman, the lady’s procuress, inspects his money. This painting (or a copy) was owned by Johannes Vermeer’s mother-in-law and appears in two of that artist’s works, The Concert (stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) and Woman Seated at a Virginal (National Gallery, London). Han van Meegeren forged a intended to use as a prop in his forgeries.

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