Hendrick ter Brugghen was one of the leading painters among the group of artists who came to be known as the 'Utrecht Caravaggisti' since they adapted Caravaggio's subject-matter and style to suit the Dutch taste for religious and secular paintings.

Ter Brugghen was the only one who may have been in Rome whilst Caravaggio was still working there. This picture shows awareness of Caravaggio's Lute-player of circa 1596 and of Orazio Gentileschi's Female violinist of circa 1611/12. Ter Brugghen has been recently recognised as an unorthodox, but significant influence on the work of Vermeer. The painting acts as an allegory of the sense of hearing - there may be an intended joke that the girl's ear is covered by her turban. The musical theme is important to the Fitzwilliam which acquired Titian's 'Venus and Cupid with a lute-player' through its founding bequest in 1816 and contains a wide selection of manuscript lute music of this period.


Christie's, 1954; The Arcade Gallery; Benedict Nicolson; then by descent to Vanessa Nicholson. On loan to the Fitzwilliam from 1981 to 2010. The work has been vetted by the Art Loss Register.

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