Hendrick ter Brugghen

Esau Selling His Birthright

c. 1627
Oil on canvas, 106.7 x 138.8 cm.
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Hendrick ter Brughhen, Esau Selling His Birthright


Hendrick ter Brugghen began to study painting at the age of thirteen, possibly in the studio of Abraham Bloemart. On a visit to Rome, he encountered and was strongly influenced by the paintings of Caravaggio. After returning to Utrecht, Ter Brugghen painted in the studio of Gerrit van Honthorst. Honthorst and Ter Brugghen and their followers became known as the Caravaggisti because they adopted Caravaggio's strong sense of light, dramatic contrast between light and dark, and focus on emotionally charged subject matter. Ter Brugghen's style became more emotionally expressive, and his paintings acquired a heightened dramatic tone.

As a leader of the Caravaggisti, Ter Brugghen's paintings were in high demand and he received consistent commissions from both public and private sources. Other artists also recognized his talent and success; the famed Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens even described Ter Brugghens's work as "…above that of all the other Utrecht artists."