View Points and Perspectives

Hello everyone! For this week I wanted to talk about an artist called Gerrit van Honthorst. As I was looking through his paintings, I realized that he does this interesting experiment with painting subjects/stories in different viewpoints/perspectives.

Van Honthorst was a Dutch painter during the Golden Age. Even though he worked and lived in Utrecht, he visited Rome and soon adapted some of the techniques Caravaggio used in his paintings. When he was in Rome, he acquired the name Gherardo delle Notti (Gerard of the Night Scenes) because of his techniques in paintings. His work became so esteemed that soon nobles and loyalty began to commission his work. Additionally, many artists, including Rembrandt, were largely influenced by his use of light and darkness in paintings.

Christ before the High Priest, 1617


The first painting I wanted to talk about is Christ before the High Priest. This was the painting that made me interested in this artist. It has that unique element of light and darkness that Caravaggio uses. The light here emphasizes the faces and gestures of Christ and the High Priest. Everyone else is hazy and unimportant. In one of my art history books, it said that by using the candlelight, Honthorst creates a soft dreamy quality and adds dramatic effects to the story itself. Here, the High Priest, Caiaphas, is interrogating Christ. Honthorst shows some frustration in Caiaphas face. He also shows that Christ is calm and collect, taking and accepting everything that is to come.

I really enjoy the approach that Honthorst took in representing the candlelight; it a great to see artists trying to approach the same story, constantly told, in a different way.

Musical Group on a Balcony, 1622


The second painting by Honthorst that is amazing unique is the Musical Group on a Balcony. I like this painting because it has a unique perspective. We are not looking at these Musicians on a ground/same level; we are looking up at them. In this case, they are superior than us because we are lower. This painting is also about 122 by 85 3/16 inches, so it is a large work. Honthorst creates the group and balcony to appear above our heads, even though we are looking directly at it!

Christ Crowned with Thorns, around 1620


Image from

The last painting I wanted to talk about is Christ Crowned with Thorns. This shows part of Christ’s suffering and Passion. Here a soldier is placing the Crown of Thorns on Christ’s head, two men in the background are discussing and watching Christ, and the man to Christ’s left is almost cheerful to see Christ in pain. Christ accepts this pain calmly and collectively (the same as in Christ before the High Priest). The light source Honthorst uses highlights Christ’s body, his restrained emotion, and even the strain of the hands. I think Honthorst brilliantly depicts the humility and calmness of Christ.

It’s always interesting to see artists take on same stories and ideas and put a twist on them. That is what Gerrit van Honthorst did through the way he depicted light, even in Christ before the High Priest where one candle was the source of all light, and the way he depicted situations in different perspectives in view points.

Honthorst, Childhood of Christ, 1620



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