Rombouts was born and died in Antwerp. He studied under Abraham Janssens and Nicolas Régnier in Antwerp. He traveled to Rome in 1616 and stayed there until 1625. It is possible that in Florence he met the Caravaggist Bartolomeo Manfredi and worked for Cosimo II de' Medici.
When he got back he became a member of the Guild of St. Luke and in 1627 he married Anna van Thielen, the sister of Jan Philip van Thielen, who became his pupil in 1631. From 1628-1630 he was deacon of the Guild in Antwerp. In 1635 Rombouts collaborated with other artists on the decorations of the Joyous Entry of Cardinal-infant Ferdinand in Antwerp, which was under the general direction of Rubens.
He painted mainly profane works depicting merry companies, music scenes and parties at a table playing cards and drinking. He worked on commission and on the free market. Many of his commissions came from Ghent. His monumental genre pieces were painted on horizontal canvases. He also painted a few religious and mythological works in landscape format, such as Christ Driving the Money-changers from the Temple (Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp).
He was the most successful during the heyday of the Caravaggio movement in the Southern Netherlands between 1620-1640. His Caravaggesque conversation pieces are realistic and expressive. His work is characterized by the use of chiaroscuro, the horizontal format and a pronounced modelé that sometimes looks sculptural and that points to the influence of his master Abraham Janssens. His use of diagonals in the composition and perspectival abbreviation is prominent in a work such as the Card Players (Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp).
The influence of the Caravaggio movement began to wane after 1630 and he abandoned chiaroscuro effects for more tempered lighting. A good example of this is The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherina (Saint James's Church, Antwerp).
- Hans Vlieghe, "Rombouts, Theodoor," Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, [accessed 6 January 2008].
- Matthias Depoorter, Theodoor Rombouts at Baroque in the Southern Netherlands
- Theodoor Rombouts at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- Theodoor Rombouts biography in: Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 1718 (Dutch)
- Link to website with several pictures
- A Caravaggio Rediscovered, The Lute Player, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Rombouts (see cat. no. 16)
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