In Pursuit of CaravaggioLondon
David De Haen
Sotheby’s, New York, 17 May 1995;
With Piero Corsini, New York, 1995;
With Galerie Pitchaul, Paris, 2000;
Bonhams, London, 7 December 2005;
With Marco Voena, London-Milan;
Milan, Koelliker collection.
C. Grilli, David de Haen, Dutch painter in Rome, in
“Paragone”, XLVIII, 563 (99), January 1997, p. 43, fig. 38;
Etats d'Ame. Mirror and Soul, catalogue of the exhibition (Gallerie Pitchaul), Paris, 2000, pp. 40-41; Caravaggio e l’Europa, catalogue of the exhibition, Milan 2005, p. 497;
C. Grilli, in French Dutch and Flemish Caravaggesque Paintings from the Koelliker Collection. Part II, catalogue of the exhibition, Turin 2007, pp. 30−33, n. 8 e p. 34 fig. 1;
G. Papi, Ribera a Roma, Soncino 2007, p. 198 fig. 33; C. Grilli, in Portraits / Self-Portraits from the 16th to the 21st Century, catalogue of the exhibition ed. by G. E. Sperone – M. Voena, New York 2012, pp. 42-43;
C. Grilli in In Pursuit of Caravaggio, catalogue of the exhibition, Turin 2016, pp. 54-55.
Robilant+Voena, French Dutch and Flemish
Caravaggesque Paintings from the Koelliker collection, 28 November – 19
December 2007, n. 8;
New York, Robilant+Voena at Sperone Westwater, Portraits/Self-Portraits from the 16th to the 21st Century, 12 January – 25 February 2012;
London, Robilant+Voena, In Pursuit of Caravaggio, 21 November 2016 – 17 February 2017.
mentioned by Mancini, remained all but forgotten in art historical literature from the time of his death until
the early 20th century.
Giulio Mancini recorded David de Haen in his Viaggio di Roma per vedere le pitture. The Dutch painter was
probably the first assistant of Dirck van Baburen in Rome; his name is mentioned in the Stati delle
Anime in 1619 and in 1620, as being a roommate of his master when he resided near the parish church
of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte. He was probably born in Amsterdam, as may be deduced from a drawing
signed "David Ham da Amsterdam" representing Apollo flaying Marsyas (Florence, Gabinetto degli Uffizi).
The figure of Marsyas in this drawing is the same figure painted in the lunette of the church of San
Pietro in Montorio in Rome, where he is shown kneeling and mocking Christ.
Though the date of David de Haen's birth remains in doubt, it is presumed to be ca. 1585. The date of his
death, on the other hand, is known: 31 August 1622. When exactly he arrived in Rome is also unclear.
The surviving corpus of his work, only recently rediscovered and still expanding as new attributions are
made, consists at the moment of about ten paintings. The first painting to be recognized as the work of
David de Haen, signed and dated 1616, is the Portrait of a Man (formerly on the London art market).
Between 1617 and 1619 he worked with Dirck van Baburen decorating the chapel of the Pieta in San
Pietro in Montorio in Rome and working on the lunette representing the Mocking of Christ. In the same
period he painted Prometheus for Gaspar Roomer in Naples (now in a private collection in Rome). In 1621
de Haen stayed as a guest in the Roman palazzo of the agent of the King of Spain, Pietro Cussida, located in
Via del Corso. He had already decorated the Cussida family chapel in San Pietro in Montorio and later made
replicas of the altarpiece for it (Utrecht, Centraal Museum; Greenville, Bob Jones University; Ann Arbour,
Michigan University; Milan, private collection). De Haen also painted a series of the Evangelists in La Seo
Cathedral in Zaragoza (Spain). He died of a high fever in the palazzo of the Marquis Vincenzo Giustiniani in
Rome a year later, in 1622. For this patron he had painted the Entombment (formerly in the Kaiser Friedrich
Museum in Berlin, but destroyed in the Second World War).
The subject of the painting described here is probably a self-portrait. It must have been painted between
1617 and 1619, when the influence of Dirck van Baburen began to make itself felt on David de Haen's work.
This painting, remarkable for its strong realism, was long considered the self-portrait of Gerrit van
Honthorst. The present writer was the first to re-assign it to David de Haen when it was still in the Gallery
of Piero Corsini in New York. Ownership of the painting then passed to the Galerie Pitchal in Paris, which
offered it for auction on the English art market.
The man, portrayed in a trompe l’oeil oval frame, is wearing a hat with a feather. He is laughing heartily and
his physiognomy clearly displays, according to a specialist dentist consulted, a set of unhealthy teeth and
gums, suggesting perhaps a heavy imbiber of alcohol or the effects of a dissolute life. Such a lifestyle,
according to the official state records of the time, was by no means uncommon among the many foreign
artists then living in Rome. The man portrayed in the painting is about 35 years of age. He seems to protrude
beyond the parameters of the painting, gazing joyfully outside the frame in order to capture the attention
of whosoever is the subject of his attention. However, the nature of the work seems to indicate that it was
probably painted by the artist from the reflection of himself in a mirror. A drawing in the Musees des Beaux
Arts de Belgique in Brussels confirms that the man portrayed in the painting is none other than the Dutch
artist David de Haen. A comparison between the drawing and our painting shows that the latter is painted
with the same narrowed eyes with their shadowed 'bags' and strongly emphasized eyelids (See D. Bodart,
Quelques peintures caravagistes d'apres les dessins de la collection de Grez, in “Bulletin des Musees Royaux
des Beaux Arts de Belgique”, 21, 1972, plate 38, ill. 4).
De Haen painted his Self-Portrait when he was working as an assistant of his compatriot van Baburen in San
Pietro in Montorio, and there is a stylistic resemblance between it and the abovementioned Portrait of a
Man painted in 1616; the play of light and shade is similar. There are, however, also noticeable differences
from his earlier style, such as the sustained use of a brush which is enriched with a touch of white lead used
to depict the highlights on the tip of the nose and in the collar. This is an artistic device to move from light
to shadow with a greater diffusion of light. The subject's posture, the slight torsion of the neck to the left,
creates a movement that projects the portrait 'outside' the painting just as it does in the earlier portrait of
Finally, it can be said with confidence that this Self-Portrait by David de Haen is a masterpiece created by an
original and mature artist experimenting with novel forms and techniques. Had he not died at such young
an age, he would surely have become an artist as important as his famous fellow-countryman of Utrecht.