adam de coster
(Malines 1586 – antwerp 1643) 


a boy serving a glass of wine to a man with a lighted candle


oil on canvas
69 x 51 cm. (27.2 x 20.1 in.)
c. 1620

‘All these artists were seduced by the latest developments in the South, and imported into their native towns visions of real life, which were novel and disturbing. […] Caravaggism may have been an international movement; but it took a national form wherever it prospered.’

Benedict Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, Vol. I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 23.

Born in Malines in 1586, Adam de Coster spent most of his working life in Antwerp, where he became a master at the Guild of Saint Luke in 1607/1608. Beyond this, there is little known about his life. Only a small selection of paintings can be attributed to him with certainty. Due to the lack of signed or documented works, most have been identified on the basis of an engraving by Lucas Vosterman (1595–1675) after de Coster, of a candlelit game of backgammon.1 It is clear that by the 1630s he was well established as a candlelight painter, as he was described as ‘Pictor Noctium’ (painter of night scenes) in Anthony van Dyck’s (1599–1641) Iconography (1626).2


De Coster’s Judith and Holofernes in the Prado Museum indicates an affinity with Antonio Campi (1522–1587),3 which makes it plausible that de Coster spent some time in Italy.4 In any case, Adam de Coster was undoubtedly influenced by Caravaggio (1571–1610) and his Northern followers, such as Matthias Stom (c. 1600 – after 1652) and Gerard van Honthorst (1592–1652), to which the present painting, with the scene vividly lit by a single candle, also attests. He died in Antwerp in 1643.

1. Benedict Nicolson, “Notes on Adam de Coster,” The Burlington Magazine, May 1961, Vol. 103, no. 698, 186.
2. Ben van Beneden, From Titian to Rubens: Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish Collections, exh. cat., (Venice; Antwerp: Snoeck, 2019), 211.
3. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, vol. I, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 100.
4. Nicolson, “Notes on Adam de Coster.” 186.