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(Utrecht 1597/98 – 1671 Utrecht)

Jan van Bijlert studied initially under his father, the glass painter Herman van Bijlert, before completing his training in Utrecht with Abraham Bloemaert. He went to France around 1617 and thence to Italy: in 1621 he is recorded in Rome, where he was one of the founding members of the Bentvueghels and was given the nickname ‘Aeneas’. In 1624 he returned to his native Utrecht. Like so many other young painters who stayed in Rome for a prolonged period, van Bijlert was influenced by the chiaroscuro painting style of Caravaggio, which dominated painting in Italy in the 1610s and 1620s and had a strong impact on art all over Europe. Like his fellow Utrecht painters, notably Gerard van Honthorst, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Dirck van Baburen, van Bijlert brought the caravaggesque manner back with him to his native city. Until about 1630 he continued to work mainly in this style, although, presumably under the influence of Honthorst, his work quite soon changed towards a more classicist approach. Van Bijlert’s oeuvre is varied, ranging from works that fit in well with such international traditions as Caravaggism and Classicism, but also including typically Dutch genre pieces and portraits. As an artist, he showed himself to be not only versatile in adapting contemporary styles to his own idiom, but also capable of making his own contributions to the general artistic developments of the time.

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