Rombouts was born in Antwerp and trained with the more classical artist Abraham Jansens (1567–1632) before leaving for Rome in 1616. He is documented there until 1625. He may also have worked for Cosimo II de’Medici in Florence. During his stay in Italy, Rombouts produced a series of lively dramatic scenes indebted to the work of Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582–1622), often depicting Card Players, Fortune Tellers and Musicians in the Roman Caravaggesque manner. His best-known works show horizontal groups, though he also produced single figures of musicians and bravos drinking, possibly intended as allegories of the senses.
In 1625 Rombouts returned to Antwerp where he became master of the Guild of St Luke. He continued to produce secular works for private patrons as well as altarpieces. By the 1630s the interest in Caravaggism was in decline and Rombouts adopted a lighter tone with less dramatic contrasts. He also came under the influence of the late style of Rubens (1577–1640) who he assisted on the decorations for the ephemeral Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi of 1635.
Top 3 auction prices
Books on Theodoor Rombouts
Benedict Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement: lists of pictures by Caravaggio and his followers throughout Europe from 1590 to 1650, Oxford, 1979.
Christine Braet, Theodoor Rombouts (1597-1637): Ein Monographie, Diss. lic. kunstgeschiedenis en oudheidkunde, RU Gent, 1987.
Cornelis de Bie, Het Gulden Cabinet vande Edel Vry Schilder-Const, 1662, reprint, Antwerp, 1971.