• NameJacob Jordaens
  • Sexmale
  • Nationality/DatesFlemish, born 1593, dead 1678
BiographyPainter of portraits, historical and religious
subjects, tapestry designer, draughtsman and etcher.
The eldest child of a wealthy cloth merchant, Jacob
Jordaens was baptized in Antwerp on May 20, 1593.
In 1607, at the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to
the Mannerist history painter Adam van Noort. In
1615, he joined the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke as a
“waterscilder [sic]”, or painter in watercolours on canvas
or paper, at the time a common surrogate for the
costly production of tapestries, and the medium in
which tapestries were usually designed. On May 16,
1616, he married Van Noort’s daughter, Catharina.
Jordaens’ first dated work, the New York Adoration of
the Shepherds (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), is of
the same year, but earlier paintings are known. His
daughters Elizabeth and Anna Catharina were born in
1617 and 1629; his only son, Jacob II, was born in
1625 and became a minor painter. Jordaens was elected
Dean of the painters’ guild in 1621 and served for
one year. He accepted the first two of his many pupils
from 1620 to 1622. A great number of pictures,
including commissions from churches and many of his
finest works, date from about 1618 through the 1630s.
Jordaens collaborated with Anthony van Dyck and,
especially, with Peter Paul Rubens. The three painters
were engaged in 1628 to paint an altarpiece for the
Augustinian Church in Antwerp. In 1634–1635, he
worked under Rubens’ direction on the decorations
for the Entry of the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of
Austria into Antwerp, and, in 1637–1638, he assisted
Rubens with the decorations for the Torre de la Parada,
Philip IV’s hunting lodge outside Madrid. During
this period Jordaens ran a busy workshop and his success
is indicated by the construction of an elegant
house on the Hoogstraat in Antwerp (c. 1640). He
received several prestigious royal commissions, including
a series of paintings illustrating the History of Psyche
commissioned by King Charles I of England for
the Queen’s House, Greenwich (1639–1641), thirtyfive
large paintings commissioned by Queen Christina
of Sweden for the royal castle at Uppsala (1648), and
decorations for the Oranjezaal at the Huis ten Bosch
for the widowed Princess of Orange, Amalia van
Solms (1649–1652). Originally a Catholic, Jordaens
became a member of the Protestant Dutch Reformed
Church in his old age (c. 1656) and was buried in the
Protestant cemetary at Putte, just north of the Dutch
Jordaens is invariably described as the third greatest
Flemish painter of the 17th century, and, following
the deaths of Rubens (1640) and Van Dyck (1641) he
became the leading painter in the southern Netherlands.
His style is characterized by its lack of idealistic
content and its earthy figure types. His best work is
assertively Flemish in style and often personal in its
interpretation of subject. Unlike almost every major
Flemish artist, Jordaens never went to Italy. He
admired Titian, Veronese, Jacopo Bassano, Adam
Elsheimer and Caravaggio, but his early transition
from Mannerism to a Caravaggesque and then a classisistic
style was modeled mostly on Rubens, who
continued to influence Jordaens for at least two
decades. Jordaens’ debt, however, was limited to compositional
ideas, the adaptation of certain poses, and
some qualities of execution. He was remarkably independent
in the use of light, the choice of colour, and
the undulating rhythm of his line, and direct observation
was important for the characterization of his figures.
A rugged, sometimes coarse, realism is most
apparent in Jordaens’ portraits and ribald genre
scenes, but also lends conviction to his religious pictures.
Jordaens made liberal use of workshop assistants.