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Jacob Jordaens
 
 
 

Jacob Jordaens
Self-portrait among Parents, Brothers and Sisters (detail)
1615
Oil on canvas, 178 x 138 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
 
 
born May 19, 1593, Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands [now in Belgium]
died Oct. 18, 1678, Antwerp

Baroque artist whose boisterous scenes of peasant life and sensuous allegories made him one of the most important painters of 17th-century Flanders.

Jordaens studied, like Peter Paul Rubens, under the painter Adam van Noort, and he married his master's daughter in 1616, the year after his admission to the guild of painters. Early in his career Jordaens executed designs for tapestries, and such paintings as “Allegory of Fertility” (c. 1625; Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels) reveal his training as a decorator. He never went to Italy as did other Flemish artists of his time, and his work is essentially Flemish in its exaggerated treatment of form and its crude humour. Jordaens was greatly influenced by his older contemporary Rubens. The colours of Jordaens' paintings are warm and glowing, his figures are robust and incline to corpulence, and their faces are red and healthy. Jordaens' paintings are particularly noted for their strong contrasts of light and shade, their compositions crowded with figures, and an air of sensual vitality that occasionally borders on coarseness. He was a prolific painter and employed many pupils in his studio to reproduce versions of his most popular pictures, such as “The King Drinks” and “The Satyr and Peasant.”

Jordaens declared himself converted to Calvinism in 1648 but received many commissions for Roman Catholic churches, and after the death of Rubens he was considered the greatest painter in Antwerp. In 1652 he played a major role in the decoration of the Huis ten Bosch (“House in the Woods”), a royal country house near The Hague, with mural paintings representing the “Triumph of Frederick Henry of Orange, Stadt holder of Holland” and “The Victory of Time.” These works are masterpieces of architectural decoration, in which the complex allegory is rendered in exuberant colours and vivacious, swirling lines. Jordaens' later works are of uneven quality, showing the increasingly important role assumed by his studio assistants.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 

Jacob Jordaens
Self-portrait among Parents, Brothers and Sisters
1615
Oil on canvas, 178 x 138 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg



Jacob Jordaens
Selbstportrat und Portrat der Familie seines Schwiegervaters
ca.1616

 

 
 
The Artist and his Family




Jacob Jordaens
The Family of the Artist
1621
Oil on canvas, 181 x 187 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

In this almost quadratic picture, which entered the Prado from the collection of Philip IV in 1829, the Flemish painter Jacob Jordaens proudly presents himself and his family. The view from below -eye level is practically ground level - lends the subject dignity. The use of this optical device allows Jordaens to portray himself in an almost aristocratic light. In 1621 he was made Dean of the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp and later carried out a large number of royal commissions, both independently and under Rubens's guidance.
The composition defines family gender roles. Jordaens himself stands on the right, one foot casually supported on the crossbar of a raised chair. His right hand leans on the chair's backrest, while his left holds the neck of a lute. His wife, wearing elegant clothes and a large ruff, sits on the left on a lower chair, her arms casually holding her little girl. In her hands, the girl has a basket of flowers and an apple. In the middle ground, between husband and wife, is another girl, who, although also shown frontally, is the only figure not to gaze directly at the spectator. The older girl is generally held to be a servant. However, she is shown here holding a basket of grapes. This role is usually ascribed to children m seventeenth-century Netherlandish family portraits. The grape-motif is a symbol for the strength of familiy ties, based on the old meaning of the Eucharist. The girl is probably between thirteen and fifteen years old. If she were really the daughter of the artist, who married the daughter of his teacher Adam van Noort in 1616, then the portrait could not have been painted in 1620/22, as is generally supposed, but must have been executed eight to ten years later.
Jordaens, like Rubens, saw himself as a scholar. Indeed, notwithstanding his membership in what amounted to a guild for craftsmen, he saw himself as a highly sophisticated court painter. This portrait, for example, is full of hidden allusions to his status and to his - albeit hardly unconventional at the time - ideas on marriage and the family. A putto at the top left of the painting suggests marriage is a union based on love, not merely on property. The putto is riding a dolphin, which, since early Christian times, had been viewed as an archetypical symbol - often in relation to the story of Jonas - for Christ's death and resurrection. Marriage is thus portrayed as a union founded on faith. The parrot in the top left, a Marian attribute, is, by allusion to the purity of the Virgin, a cipher for the chastity expected of married women. The dog behind the artist is a symbol of devotion (compare van Eyck's Arnolfini portrait,) implying - as a kind of "quid pro quo" for his wife's promise of chastity - the conjugal fidelity sworn bv the husband.

As in Frans Floris's family portrait (1561; Lier), the musical instrument stands for "concordia", family harmony. At the same time, in recalling Leonardo's description of an elegantly dressed painter listening to music and standing at his easel, it points to the artist's privileged status in society. In this sense, it is interesting that Jordaens has chosen to portray himself in the privacy of his family, rather than in a professional setting.

Norbert Schneider

 
 

Jacob Jordaens. The Artist and his Family (detail)
 
 
 

Jacob Jordaens. The Artist and his Family (detail)
 
 
 

Jacob Jordaens. The Artist and his Family (detail)
 
 
 
 

Prometheus Bound
c. 1640
Oil on canvas, 245 x 178 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne



The Four Evangelists
1620-25
Oil on canvas, 133 x 118 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris





The Bean King
c. 1655
Oil on canvas, 242 x 300 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


The Bean King (detail)
c. 1655
Oil on canvas
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


The Bean King
1635-55
Oil on canvas, 243 x 373 cm
Staatliche Museen, Kassel


The King Drinks
Oil on canvas, 156 x 210 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels


The Bean King
c. 1638
Oil on canvas, 160 x 213 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg


Eating Man
Oil on canvas
Staatliche Museen, Kassel





The King Drinks
1638
Oil on canvas
Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts, Brussels

 
 
 
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