Carel Fabritius

The painter Carel Fabritius, 1622-1654

The life of Carel Fabritius

Carel was born on February 27, 1622 as the son of Pieter Carelsz Fabritius and Barbertje Barentsdr. van der Maes in the new polder Middenbeemster. His father was both a sacristan and a schoolmaster. In the first instance, Carel learns to be a carpenter (=fabritius), just like his younger brothers Barent and Johannes. But all three of them become painters. Carel; a printmaker, painter and draughtsman. Barent; painter of biblical/historical scenes and expressive portraits. Johannes; mainly still lifes.

In 1641 Carel married Aeltge van Hassels, she was his neighbour, and moved to Runstraat in Amsterdam, where they had two children, both of whom died prematurely. When the third child is born, his wife dies and Carel returns to Middenbeemster.

In 1650 Carel married the widow Agatha van Pruyssen from Delft and started to settle there. From 1651 to 1653 they live in the ‘Old Delft’ and then in the Doelenstraat.

Carel did not live there for long because during the portrait of the sacristan on October 12 1954, there was an explosion of the Delft gunpowder house and Carel’s house and studio were also hit and burned down. Carel, his mother-in-law and the sacristan were transferred wounded to the hospital, where Carel died of his injuries.

In this unfortunate year of 1954 Fabritius also painted The Goldfinch. Recently, when this well-known painting was restored, small dents were observed in the work. It is very likely that The Goldfinch was standing in his studio on the day of the explosion and it is suspected that the dents came from pieces of grit or gunpower originating from the explosion.

The work of Carel Fabritius

Carel was apprenticed to Rembrandt van Rijn as a young man. Many of his works were also attributed to Rembrandt.

When Carel went to live and work in Delft, he developed his own style; more colour, clearer, lighter and smoother, and so became detached from Rembrandt’s style. In turn, Carel inspired Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch, among others, by his perspective/composition and subtle light rendering.

As a painter of the royal family, Carel painted the princess of Oranje, but he did not only paint portraits. He also painted scenes from everyday life/environment and historical scenes were not strange to him.

Unfortunately, few of the works of Carel Fabritius have been preserved. Because of the explosion of the gunpowder house on October 12 1954 the house and studio of Carel burned down. Not only he himself died of his injuries, but many of his paintings have also been lost.