Oil on canvas: 67 x 84,5 cm;
signed and dated ‘A. Bloemaert fe. 1628’ (l.m.)
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Depictions of the miracle of Loaves and Fishes are rare in Bloemaert’s oeuvre. The subject depicted in the present format appears to be unique. An example in which the main figures appear in the distant background. The Feeding of the 5,000 is also known as the “miracle of the five loaves and two fish”; the Gospel of John reports that Jesus used five loaves and two fish supplied by a boy to feed a multitude. According to Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Luke specifies that the place was near Bethsaida. The crowds followed Jesus on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Jesus accepts the five loaves and two fish from Andrew. He cuts the bread and distributes it to the 5,000-strong crowd; there appears to be enough for everyone.
Bloemaert used a completely different style here than in his earlier depiction of the subject in 1593. Characteristic are the brighter colors and the calmer composition. The act of Jesus is also much more central.
As a child, Bloemaert moved with his family from Gorinchem to Utrecht. He was apprenticed to no less than five different masters, among them his father Cornelis Bloemaert I. Having travelled to Paris and Amsterdam, in 1593 Bloemaert returned to Utrecht. There he was to remain for the rest of his life. Abraham Bloemaert acquired a name for his paintings of mythological and religious subjects. Bloemaert – a pious Catholic in the Protestant Northern Netherlands – received numerous commissions from the Catholic Church. Bloemaert’s early paintings feature the exaggerated, elongated and muscular figures of mannerist art.
In the 1620s, when his career was at its height, his style began to change. Influenced by his pupils, including Gerard van Honthorst and Hendrick ter Bruggen, he painted a number of works in the Caravaggist manner.
The large number of artists who have been apprenticed to Bloemaert is striking. These include the caravaggists Hendrick ten Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst. He ran a drawing school together with Paulus Moreelse. In 1650 he published the Drawing Book, with prints designed by him and etched by his son Frederick. It was a textbook with examples that was used up to the 19th century.
Centraal Museum Utrecht, & Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Feb. – May 2012, iin catalogue with ill.