Adam de Coster, Flemish, c.1586-1643
Title: A Man Singing by Candlelight
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
123.6 x 90.7 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1938
Object Number: NGI.1005
DescriptionKnown as the ‘painter of the night’, De Coster specialised in candlelight scenes in dark interiors. He may have developed an interest in such scenes in Italy, where he might have studied the work of Caravaggio and his followers. However, there is no record that he ever travelled to Italy so he may have drawn inspiration instead from paintings of Dutch and Flemish Caravaggisti who certainly had visited Italy, including Gerrit van Honthorst. the subject of a single performing musician was also popular among these northern artists.
The high quality of this work makes it an important addition to the genre. The splendid lighting effects of the candle on the costume and the subtle play of light and shade on the man’s face and hand are sufficiently realistic to suggest that the figure is a life study. The singer’s half-open mouth heightens the sense of drama and the realism of a captured moment in time.

March 2016

ProvenanceFaithleg House, Country Waterford; Power family; Auction, January/February 1936, sold by Mrs Gallwey, née Power; purchased, Waterford Furniture Stores, 7 December 1938
Exhibition HistoryCentenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964

Caravaggio and his followers in the National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, 1992
Label TextDe Coster specialised in candlelit scenes in dark interiors. He may have developed an interest in such scenes during a trip to Italy where he could have studied the work of Caravaggio and his followers. However, there is no record that De Coster ever travelled to Italy and he may have drawn inspiration from paintings of Dutch and Flemish caravaggisti who certainly had been to Italy. The subject of a single performing musician was also popular among these northern artists. The high quality of the present painting makes it one of the most significant works of De Coster’s oeuvre.