Jacob Jordaens Biography
born. 1593, Antwerpen,
died. 1678, Antwerpen
Jordaens was a Flemish painter, the pupil and son-in-law of Adam van Noort. Although Jordaens often assisted Rubens, he had a flourishing studio of his own by the 1620s, and after Rubens’s death in 1640 Jordaens was the leading figure painter in Flanders. His style was heavily indebted to Rubens, but was much more earthbound, using thick impasto, strong contrasts of light and shade, and colouring that is often rather lurid.
His physical types, too, are coarser than Rubens’s and Jordaens' name is particularly associated with large paintings of hearty rollicking peasants. Two of his favourite subjects, which he painted several times are The Satyr and the Peasant, based on one of Aesop’s fables, and The King Drinks, which depicts a boisterous group enjoying an abundant Twelfth Night feast. Jordaens’s prolific output, however, included many other subjects, including religious paintings and portrait paintings, and he also etched and made designs for tapestries.
Jordaens rarely left his native Antwerp, but commissions came from all over Europe, the most important being The Triumph of Frederick Hendrik (1651-2), an enormous composition painting painted for the Huis ten Bosch, the royal villa near The Hague. In about 1655 Jordaens became a Calvinist; he continued to paint paintings for Catholic churches, but the work of the last two decades of his life is more subdued.
After the latter’s death Jordaens was the leading figure of Flemish baroque painting. Though Jordaens never went to Italy, he strongly reflects in some paintings not only the Flemish spirit but the lighting and gesture of Caravaggio, as in the Meleager and Atalanta (Antwerp). His vivacious earthy manner (in which Sir Joshua Reynolds found ‘neither grace nor dignity’) is well illustrated by The Royal Toast (Brussels).