Jacob Jordaens I

Jacob Jordaens I, ‘Plantin-Moretus/Prentenkabinet, Antwerpen’Jacob Jordaens I is an Antwerp painter, draftsman and tapestry designer. He is a student of the painter Adam van Noort (1562-1641), from whom Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) also receives instruction.

Of the illustrious trio from the Baroque in the Southern Netherlands (along with Rubens and Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)), Jacob Jordaens is the least well known relatively speaking and the least studied and least influential. Jordaens is viewed for a long time as an epigone of Rubens, however, that is an incorrect premise. Although his presence in Rubens' studio is not confirmed in archives, many art historians see him as a student of Rubens. It is a fact that the artist completes commissions for Rubens via subcontracting.

Jordaens' commissioners come primarily, though not exclusively, from rich patricians. Very few commissions are from the nobility circle. Jordaens himself is never promoted to nobility either. After the death of Rubens in 1640, Jordaens becomes the most important painter in Antwerp. The many commissions, also from church patrons, as a consequence have an increase in the loss of quality and especially studio work, amongst which are replicas of his popular genre pieces.

Rubens exerts a strong and lasting influence on the art of Jordaens. Among other things, it is via Rubens that Jordaens learns the style of Caravaggio, which is done with a notable chiaroscuro by which he models his figures and saturated colours. Jordaens is a proponent of paintings with many figures, though he does not possess great compositional talent. He goes about the rules of perspective in his own way.

Jordaens knows how to combine art with popular, folk cultural related elements with the more elevated art of history painting. The folk angle sometimes borders on the caricature with personages that are very effusive. His art is clearly less idealised than that of Rubens and van Dyck.

The artist is known for his densely populated compositions and genre pieces that are painted on a monumental scale, such as The King Drinks and The old Folks sing, the young Folks chirp. Because of such genre pieces, all too often people identify the painter with the art of genre painting. Though Jordaens also does not enjoy the Humanistic education such as Rubens, nor did he ever go to the Italian peninsula to study the ancients, he does, however, complete a substantial number of mythological works. In addition to being a genre specialist, Jordaens is also an exceptional portraitist, landscape painter, history painter and tapestry designer.

Jacob Jordaens I is a wealthy and successful artist who lives a long life. His career is long and his oeuvre is diverse.

20 May 1593

Jacob Jordaens I is born in Antwerp.


From his fourteenth year, Jordaens is under the tutelage of Adam van Noort. Even before he becomes a Free Master, Jordaens produces work for the free market. These early works show a relationship with the oeuvre of Hendrik van Balen I (1573-1632) and Rubens.


Jordaens is taken up as a Master in the Antwerp Saint Luke Guild. He is called a waterschilder (watercolour painter). Later, Jordaens pains with oils, but he remains using the watercolour technique for making sketches.

After 1615

In this period, the painter produces many works on large format with, inter alia, mythological and allegorical story material, such as The Rape of Europa (Staatliche Museen, Berlin). For the Saint Paul's Church in Antwerp, he paints The Miraculous Catch of Fish.

In this period, there is presumably contact with the studio of Rubens.

15 May 1616

Jordaens marries Catharina van Noort (died 1659), who is the daughter of his teacher Adam van Noort. The couple has three children; Elizabeth, Jacob Jordaens II (1625-after 1650) and Anna Catharina.


The Adoration of the Shepherds (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) has a Caravaggio-esque chiaroscuro effect that Jordaens most likely learns from Rubens. A similar work is present in the collection of the KMSKA (Antwerp).


Jordaens becomes a member of the Gilde van de Armenbus (Guild of the Poor Box). The guild was a sort of insurance pool for sick artists.


Jacob Jordaens I paints The Daughters of Cecrops finding the Child Erichthonius. (KMSKA, Antwerp)


In works from after 1619, Jordaens' connection with the Caravaggio movement is much more apparent. In this period, mythological paintings appear, such as Satyr and Peasant (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) and Allegory on the Fertility of Land (Royal Museums for Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels).

28 September 1621

Jordaens becomes dean of the Antwerp Saint Luke Guild.


After 1628, Jordaens goes in a new stylistic direction and brings in more drama into his works. In 1628, in this view he paints The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia for the Saint Augustine Church in Antwerp. (KMSKA, Antwerp)


Jordaens, along with other artists is hired by Rubens in order to make oil-paint sketches of allegorical and mythological pieces for the Glorious Entrance of Cardinal-infant Ferdinand in Antwerp (Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi).


Along with other artists, Jordaens works on the mythological decorations (after oil sketches by Rubens) of the hunting pavilion Torre de la Prada of Philips IV, in the vicinity of Madrid.


Jordaens paints the first version of The old Folks sing, the young Folks chirp. (KMSKA, Antwerp) In the same period, The King Drinks appears (Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel)


Charles I, King of England, orders a cycle of 22 paintings on the history of Psyche that are to decorate the chamber in Queen's House in Greenwich. Only 8 works ever reach the royal court.

Circa 1640-1650

The Bacchus from the KMSKA collection comes from this period.

22 September 1644

Jordaens is contacted to design a tapestry series devoted to idioms. Two pattern boards are preserved in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

21 April 1648

Jordaens gets the commission to make 35 large ceiling paintings for the castle of Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689) in Uppsala, Sweden. It is not certain if Jordaens ever completes this commission or if the works ever reached their destination.

25 August 1648

Martinus van Langenhoven, a client of Jordaens, accuses the artist of having sold him inauthentic paintings. Jordaens explains that it deals with studio work that he put the finishing touches on.

Circa 1651

Amalia van Solms (1602-1675), wife of the Stadtsholder Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange (1584-1647), has the manorial house Huis ten Bosch (The Hague) built in 1645. Various artists from the Netherlands are contracted. For the Orange hall, Jordaens paints The Triumph of Time and The Triumph of Frederik Hendrik. Of the latter monumental work, an oil sketch is found in the KMSKA in Antwerp. (Two others are present in Brussels and Warsaw).

Circa 1650-1655

A half-erased coat of arms on the altarpiece The Assumption of the Virgin bears the inscription: Dono Dedit V.D. Venne. It indicates the donors: the family Van de Venne. (MSK, Ghent) In one of the apostles on the right side of the canvas is presumably the figure of Abraham Grapheus recognisable. Grapheus' head turns up in various oil studies by Jordaens. (MSK, Ghent)

Circa 1656

Late in his life, the artist converts to Calvinism.

18 October 1678

Jordaens dies in Antwerp. He is buried in the Protestant churchyard of Putte.

Matthias Depoorter