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The consummate master of family celebrations and feasts: Flemish artist Jacob Jordaens
The consummate master of family celebrations and feasts: Flemish artist Jacob Jordaens

Contrary to the traditions of the Renaissance, not heroes and celestials, but ordinary people, look at the audience from the paintings of the Flemish Jacob Jordaens. Or rather, they don’t look, because their attention is occupied either by a game, or by a feast, or by an interesting conversation. This artist depicted life itself on canvases, and therefore, probably, his legacy does not lose its relevance over the centuries.

Chief after Rubens and Van Dyck

There were three of them - the great Flemings, who were guided by all subsequent generations of artists: Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. The latter, having outlived his colleagues, became at that time the most famous and respected master of the Northern Renaissance.

Self-portrait of Jordaens at the age of about 22

Jacob Jordaens was born on May 19, 1593 in Antwerp, the son of a wealthy merchant. He was the eldest of eleven children - a father who sold fabrics and tapestries could afford to support a large family, moreover, by sending his first child to study painting with Adam van Noort, he hoped that later Jacob would become an assistant in the family business., a rather famous painter of the time, taught Rubens - who was 16 years older than Jordaens. Jacob received, apparently, the education usual for his class - in any case, he was well versed in ancient mythology, had a clear confident handwriting and spoke French. By the way, the artist wrote his name in the French manner - Jacques.

It is believed that the artist depicted his teacher and father-in-law van Noort in the portrait of the unknown

From the age of 14, becoming part of the van Noort family, Jacob became close to his household, and in 1616 he married the teacher's daughter Anna Catarina. In the same year, the young artist joined the Guild of Saint Luke - an association of representatives of various creative professions. Having become part of this closed club, Jordaens was able to open his own workshop, recruit students, receive orders for the creation of works - and also count on help in case of disability. The status of homeowner and family man gave advantages in the hierarchy of Antwerp craftsmen, so in 1618 Jacob bought a house - in the same area of ​​the city where he spent his childhood. Twenty years later, the artist expanded his property, acquiring a neighboring building. There, in a spacious household, where a significant space was set aside for a workshop, the whole life of Jacob Jordaens, who, after the death of Rubens and Van Dyck, became the main and most respected of the Flemish masters, will pass.

J. Jordaens. Self-portrait with parents, brothers and sisters

What and how Jordaens portrayed

Contrary to the rather widespread custom of that time, Jordaens did not go to Italy to study the masters of the Renaissance. Instead, he looked through the engravings at his disposal, and was also interested in those works that were in Northern Europe. The work of Jordaens was seriously influenced by Rubens, who often attracted his younger colleague to fulfill orders, but it was not a matter of simply copying the style, otherwise Jacob would not have become a figure of this magnitude.

J. Jordaens. Prometheus chained

When comparing paintings by Rubens and Jordaens - sometimes written on the same plot - you can see that the works of the latter are distinguished by great optimism, love of life, are sustained in warm colors, he even tried to depict human figures on canvas in full size, so the line between the viewer and what was happening in the picture was somewhat erased, the characters became closer, more real.

J. Jordaens. A satyr visiting a peasant

Another master who influenced the formation of Jordaens's own style was Caravaggio, the founder of realism in painting, one of the most influential artists of the 16th-17th centuries. Young Jordaens, following the Italian, experimented in the technique of Chiaroscuro and Tenebrosso, when the picture was especially sharply opposed by light and shadow, which gave each object a volume effect. Despite the fact that Jordaens followed the discoveries and carefully looked at the works of his great predecessors and contemporaries, he did not lose his individuality - and therefore was in great demand as an artist at home and abroad.

J. Jordaens. Adoration of the shepherds

He wrote a lot on biblical and mythological themes, but did not avoid other directions in painting either. Among the works of Jordaens, for example, still lifes appear, and on some paintings he worked with the involvement of "narrow" specialists, as in the case of the creation of "Madonna and Child in a Wreath of Flowers", where the floral ornament was created by the master of still life Andris Daniels. Jordaens actively used and the work of his students - of whom only according to official records there were fifteen. Among the painters who left the Flemish's workshop was his own son, Jacob Jordaens the Younger, who also left behind a number of canvases.

Ordinary people and "kings" in the paintings of Jordaens

J. Jordaens. Odysseus in the cave of Polyphemus

Even a not particularly knowledgeable person can distinguish the paintings of Jordaens from the rest of the Flemish paintings - the works of this Flemish radiate optimism, glorify the beautiful simplicity of human relations. Jordaens often turned to the genre of everyday life, depicting scenes from the life of peasants and burghers, often based on proverbs, placing many characters on the canvas, filling the paintings with crude humor. In several works on the theme of the "king of beans", for example, an old game is reflected, when one grain of beans was baked into a pie, and the one who came across it became the "king" of the evening.

J. Jordaens. Bean king

Even mythological, biblical subjects Jordaens embodied with characteristic realism and emphasized sensibility of perception. The artist drew inspiration from there - in the crowd, in the village, in the work of artisans, in the life of the common people. Sometimes the biblical characters of Jordaens seem to have been copied from ordinary townspeople - and this, apparently, was the case, the artist often invited his Antwerp acquaintances as models. At the same time, one cannot fail to notice the deep symbolism of his works. For example, in many group portraits of families, you can see a dog, or a parrot - as a sign of loyalty.

J. Jordaens. Bean King (another option)

Jordaens was appreciated for the fact that his works created a mood, atmosphere, and some of the artist's works were the reason for the imposition of fines - for heretical sentiments and scandalous content of the paintings. And yet Jacob Jordaens was a very respected and sought-after artist, even the king of England was listed among his customers Charles I, who commissioned the master to create paintings for the residence in Greenwich. In 1645, Jordaens became a Protestant, but the Catholic Church did not stop ordering him to create new works.

J. Jordaens. Four Evangelists

In addition to paintings, Jordaens left behind several hundred drawings, and also was engaged in the design of tapestries, at that time the most profitable of all forms of art. Having lived all his life in Antwerp and almost never leaving it, the artist did not receive international fame, he and didn't look for her. Jacob Jordaens died at the age of 85 from an illness called "English sweat", on the same day his daughter Elizabeth, who posed for her father more than once and appeared in several of his canvases, died with him. Katarina's wife had already died by that time, and Jordaens was buried next to her.

J. Jordaens. Self-portrait with wife and daughter Elizabeth Self-portrait of Jacob Jordaens at the age of 56

Paintings by Jacob Jordaens are in collections around the world, and there are some in Russia. One of the works, Lamentation of Christ, was bought by Empress Catherine II and presented by her to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

Read also: paintings by Caravaggio, from which goosebumps.

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