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Jacob Jordaens

1593-1678

Flemish Baroque Era Artist

Jacob Jordaens was born at Antwerp in 1594. He entered the studio of Van Noort in 1607 and remained with that master until 1615, in which year he was elected a member of the guild of painters in that city.

Jacob Jordaens, "a vulgar Rubens," was born at Antwerp in 1594. He entered the studio of Van Noort in 1607 and remained with that master until 1615, in which year he was elected a member of the guild of painters in that city. In the following year, he married his former master's daughter. Owing to his marriage, he was unable to follow the example of the majority of his countrymen and go to Italy; but the renown which he obtained in his native city, fully compensated for the loss. Jordaens was Rubens' most intimate friend and collaborateur, but, though he is not inferior to the great master in colour, yet he frequently degenerates into coarseness and vulgarity.


Self-Portrait with Parents, Brothers, and Sisters (c. 1615).
Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

 


His pictures abound in the churches and public buildings in Flanders and the Netherlands. His Triumphal Entry of the Prince of Nassau, executed in fresco, in the House in the Wood, near the Hague, is usually considered his masterpiece, though Sir Joshua Reynolds describes it as "a confused business," and adds " that the only part which deserves any commendation is the four horses of the chariot." Another fine work by Jordaens is a Young Satyr in the Trippenhuis at Amsterdam. An Adoration of the Shepherds, and a Last Supper in the Antwerp Gallery, also a Crucifixion in the church of St. Paul in the same city, only show how ill-adapted Jordaens' style is for sacred subjects. A Holy Family by Jordaens was formerly exhibited in the National Gallery. He painted in water-colour, fresco, and oil; and besides being celebrated as a historical painter, he also excelled in portraiture. A good specimen is a Lady's Portrait in the Antwerp Gallery. A favourite subject with Jordaens was the proverb, "Wie die Alten sungen, so feifen die Jungen" ("As the old ones sing, so the young ones pipe"). This artist died at Antwerp in 1678.


In the Louvre Jordaens cannot be studied to advantage. His Christ driving the Money Changers out of the Temple is only sacred in name and subject; it is painted with all the energy, and excessive fire which are usual with him, and which he carried to a far greater extent than even Rubens in the commencement of his career. In his Four Evangelists we are unable to see anything but caricatures, the product of a misdirected talent.

File:Jordaens Return of the Holy Family from Egypt.jpg

Jacob Jordaens's The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt



To find any Jordaens worthy to be taken as a model, we must go to the Museum at Brussels. Here we shall find two compositions equal, if not superior, to any by this master. The more important, since it contains ten or twelve figures the size of life, is a Miraele of St. Martin, who is healing a demoniac before the pro-consul. It is painted with that fiery colour which characterises Jordaens; but with almost as much true nobleness as force. The other subject, an allegory of the occupations and gifts of the autumn, is of much more sober colouring, though it loses nothing of its brilliancy. This picture of the Autumn may be called Jordaens' masterpiece; at least we have never heard any other works of this master mentioned with the praise that this one deserves. The landscape, the fruits, the actors of the scene, especially a satyr carrying a little faun on his shoulders, and a naked nymph, are of great vigour and wonderful effect. It is Caravaggio or Ribera, with the colouring of Rubens.


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