A member of a well-known family of artists and art dealers, Tobias Verhaecht was the son of Cornelis van Haecht. By 1590 he had made a trip to Italy, where he probably visited, among other cities, Rome and Florence. He may be identical with "Tobia", who is mentioned by Giulio Mancini as having lived in Rome and whose landscapes in his opinion surpassed those of Herri met de Bles, Domenico Campagnola and Mathys Bril. Van Mander mentioned Verhaecht only in passing as an "erdigh goet Landschap-maker" (an agreeable and good landscapist). According to Cornelis de Bie, he worked in the Ducal Court in Florence and made a name for himself in Rome painting frescoes of landscapes and ruins, none of which have been identified. Italian painting of the period seems to have left little impression on his art. Verhaecht became a master in the St. Luke's guild in his hometown in 1590 and later served as an officer. He established a studio with numerous apprentices, including the young P. P. Rubens, who studied with him as his first master in 1591. In 1594 Verhaecht worked alongside Maerten de Vos on the decorations for the triumphal entry of Archduke Ernst of Austria into Antwerp. In both his cabinet-sized paintings and drawings, Verhaecht was primarily a specialist in landscapes in the tradition of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and the Mannerists. Frans Francken the Younger and Jan Bruegel the Elder sometimes painted the staffage in his landscapes. His drawings have been mistaken for those of Joos de Momper and Lodewijk Toeput.
Peter C. Sutton