Gerard Seghers

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The Denial of Saint Peter (1620-1625)

Gerard Seghers (alternative spellings of last name: 'Zegers' and 'Zeghers')[1] (Antwerp, 1591 – Antwerp, 18 March 1651) was a Flemish painter, art collector and art dealer and one of the leading Caravaggisti in the Southern Netherlands.[2]


The Jolly Drinker (c. 1625)

He was the son of an innkeeper. He was likely not related to the Jesuit still life painter Daniel Seghers. At the age of 12 he was enrolled as a pupil. It is not clear who his teacher was. Possibly he trained under Abraham Janssens, Hendrick van Balen or Caspar de Crayer (the father of the more famous Gaspar de Crayer).[3] In 1608, only aged 17, he became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. In 1611 Seghers joined the Society of the Aged Bachelors (Sodaliteit der Bejaarde Jongmans), a fraternity for bachelors established by the Jesuit order.[2]

He left for a trip to Italy before 15 February 1613. It is assumed that he worked there for the Antwerp art merchant Goetkint. At the same time Seghers used the experience for furthering his training as a painter and making copies after famous Italian paintings.

Saint Sebastian comforted by an Angel

Gerard Seghers visited Naples and Rome as well as other places. In Rome he encountered the followers of Caravaggio. One in particular, Bartolomeo Manfredi, had as significant impact on his early work. He likely also met up with the Dutch and Flemish Caravaggisti residing in Rome such as Gerard van Honthorst, Dirck van Baburen and Jan Janssen and possibly also Hendrik ter Brugghen and Theodoor Rombouts.[2]

After Italy, Seghers visited Spain where according to his own report he was in the service of Philip III of Spain. He was back in Antwerp around 1620 and the next year he married Catharina Wouters (d.1656) who came from a respected family. The couple would have eleven children of whom one, Jan-Baptist Seghers (1624-1670), also became a painter.[1] It is assumed that in the period 1624 to 1627 he resided in Utrecht visiting with the leading Carravagist Gerard van Honthorst whom he likely knew from Rome.[2]

Back in Antwerp Seghers was successful as a painter and art dealer and was able to afford a house on the fashionable Meir. He was patronized by many monastic orders, including the Jesuits, who commissioned altarpieces from him. He was employed by the city authorities of both Antwerp and Ghent as one of the many artists working on the festive decorations for the Joyous Entry of Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, the new governor of the Southern Netherlands, in 1635. He served as the dean of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1645.[2]

He had many pupils including his son Jan Baptist Seghers, Peter Franchoys, Frans Lucas Peters (I), Pieter Verbeeck (II) and Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert.[1]


Christ and the Penitents

Seghers is known mainly for his monumental genre paintings and large religious and allegorical works with a characteristic landscape format. He completed many altarpieces for churches in the Southern Netherlands.[2]

Stylistically and thematically, Seghers was initially strongly influenced by Caravaggio and in particular the work of Bartolomeo Manfredi, a follower of Caravaggio. In contrast to Caravaggio, Seghers preferred a more idealised treatment of his subjects. The influence of the Caravaggisti is seen in his reliance on chiaroscuro, close-ups and an exaggerated expression for dramatic effect. He often used figures as repoussoirs to obscure the light source (often candlelight). A work from this early period is his Judith with the Head of Holofernes in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome as well as the The Denial of Saint Peter in the North Carolina Museum of Art.[2][4] The theme of the Denial of Saint Peter seems to have been particularly dear to him as at least 10 versions by his hand are known.[5] Caravaggism, both in history and monumental genre paintings, continued to mark Seghers's work after his return to Antwerp.

After 1630, his palette lightened up considerably and the dark background was replaced by architectural motifs, clouds and landscape elements. The realistic facial expressions became more Classicist and he used more variations of colour. This reflected the influence of Peter Paul Rubens.[2] This influence went even so far that in his painting the Adoration of the Magi (1630, Church of Our Lady, Bruges) he adopted Rubens' composition for his treatment of the same subject.[4] It is with this style that he was most successful in his career. His most important and most characteristic works were painted between 1630 and 1640. Afterwards, he changed to a more gracious and elegant, but also less monumental style. His colours became weaker and the draperies more linear.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Gerard Seghers at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Matthias Depoorter, Gerard Seghers at Barok in Vlaanderen
  3. ^ Ford-Wille, Clare. "Seghers, Gerard." The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 18 Jul. 2014
  4. ^ a b Seghers, Gerard at Prado Enciclopedia online (Spanish)
  5. ^ Nicolson, Benedict (June 1971). "Gerard Seghers and the 'Denial of St Peter'". The Burlington Magazine 113 (819): 302, 304–309. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Carl Van de Velde. "Seghers, Gerard." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 18 Jul. 2014

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