A Laughing Bravo with a Bass Viol and a Glass
XQG 1971 Dutch 1
Apart from religious compositions, ter Bruggen also painted a number of canvases of musicians either to be shown in pairs or singly. The figures in these paintings are not dressed in contemporary clothes, but almost certainly in theatrical, or occasionally pastoral, costume. A laughing bravo was acquired by Charles I. At the time of the Restoration in 1660 it was in the possession of the painter Sir Peter Lely, who returned it to the crown. The origin of these compositions again lies in Caravaggio (for example, 'The Lute Player' of 1595, The Hermitage, St Petersburg), who, however, treated the subject, and other related single-figure compositions, as exercises in genre. Ter Bruggen dispenses with any narrative or anecdotal interest and consequently his pictures are closer to allegories, even though he would have seen itinerant musicians of this kind on his return to Holland. If allegory is the intention in the present painting, then it could be interpreted as illustrating two of the five senses - Taste and Hearing. Some of the musicians depicted by ter Bruggen are introspective, but here the mood is more outgoing, emphasised by the scale of the figure seen from below. The artist used the same model in several other paintings.
Signed and dated upper left: 'HT Bruggen fecit 1625'
Catalogue entry adapted from Enchanting the Eye: Dutch paintings of the Golden Age, London, 2004