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  • NameHendrick van Balen d.ä.
  • Sexmale
  • Nationality/DatesFlemish, born 1575, dead 1632
BiographyHistory painter and designer of stained glass windows.
The eldest son of Antwerp merchant Willem
van Balen, Hendrick received a good formal education.
In 1592 he was registered as a master in the
Antwerp Guild of St. Luke, of which he later served
as dean in 1608/1609 and 1609/1610. According to
Karel van Mander (Het Schilder-Boeck, 1604), he was a
pupil of Adam van Noort, although this cannot be
confirmed. Between 1595 and 1600 Van Balen travelled
to Italy, visiting Rome, presumably Venice –
where he may have come into contact with the German
painter Hans Rottenhammer, given the stylistic
similarity between their works – and other cities.
While there is no record of his travels, on his return
to Antwerp he joined the Guild of Romanists – membership
of which was restricted to those who had visited
Rome – and served as Dean in 1613. From 1602
onwards Van Balen’s name appears regularly in the
records of the Antwerp painters’ Guild, especially as a
teacher. In 1602–1603 four apprentices were registered
with the Guild, and the guild registers contain
the record of countless others in the following years.
For 30 years he ran a large successful studio and had
many pupils, including Frans Snyders and Anthony
van Dyck (in 1609/1610). Three of Van Balen’s sons
became painters: Jan, Gaspard and Hendrick II. His
daughter Maria married the painter Theodor van
Thulden in 1635. In 1613 Van Balen travelled on a
diplomatic mission to the Northern Netherlands in
the company of Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel I.
Early in his career Van Balen painted a number of
large-scale altarpieces for Antwerp churches that
reflect the Romanist influence of his presumed
teacher, Van Noort for example, the Resurrection for
the St. Jacobskerk, where he was later buried. His
later altarpieces, such as the Gathering of Manna
(Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten),
with richer and more subtle colouring, were
clearly painted after Van Dyck joined his studio. Van
Balen is, however, best known as a painter of intimate,
cabinet-sized pictures on copper or wood, often
with mythological or allegorical subjects. Other popular
subjects were the “Four Elements”, the “Banquet
of the Gods” and the “Wedding of Peleus and
Thetis”. The slim, gracefully proportioned figures in
Van Balen’s work of the first decade of the 1600s are
very similar in style to those of Rottenhammer,
although his palette is subtler and more luminous
than the bold primary colours of the German master.
These scenes allowed the artist to display his attractive
nudes in paradisiacal settings. Van Balen often
collaborated with other Antwerp artists, most frequently
with his friend Jan Brueghel I, for whom he
provided figures for landscapes and for fruit- and
flower garlands. He also worked together with Joos
de Momper II, Lucas van Uden, Jan Wildens, and
Frans Snyders and, after the death of Jan Brueghel I
in 1625, with the latter’s son, Jan Brueghel II.
Work
Bacchanal med sex barn
Nymphs Filling the Cornucopia
Landscape with Diana Surprised by Actaeon
Diana Hunting
An Allegory of Water (”Amphitrite”)
Bathseba in the Bath Receiving the Letter from King David
The Crucifixion