Jacob Jordaens (19 May 1593 – 18 October 1678) was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and tapestry designer known for his history paintings, genre scenes and portraits. After Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, he was the leading Flemish Baroque painter of his day. Unlike those contemporaries he never travelled abroad to study Italian painting, and his career is marked by an indifference to their intellectual and courtly aspirations. In fact, except for a few short trips to locations in the Low Countries, he remained in Antwerp his entire life. As well as being a successful painter, he was a prominent designer of tapestries. Like Rubens, Jordaens painted altarpieces, mythological, and allegorical scenes, and after 1640—the year Rubens died—he was the most important painter in Antwerp for large-scale commissions and the status of his patrons increased in general. Jordaens’ main artistic influences, besides Rubens and the Brueghel family, were northern Italian painters such as Jacopo Bassano, Paolo Veronese and Caravaggio.
Jacob Jordaens was born on 19 May 1593, in Antwerp. Little is known about Jordaens’ early education. Jordaens familiarity with biblical subjects is evident in his many religious paintings, and his personal interest with the Bible was strengthened by his later conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism. Like Rubens, he studied under Adam van Noort, who was his only teacher. After eight years of training with Van Noort, he enrolled in the Guild of St. Luke as a “waterschilder“, or watercolor artist.
His work, however, betrays local traditions, especially the genre traditions of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, in honestly depicting Flemish life with authenticity and showing common people in the act of celebratory expressions of life. His commissions frequently came from wealthy local Flemish patrons and clergy, although later in his career he worked for courts and governments across Europe. Besides a large output of monumental oil paintings he was a prolific tapestry designer, a career that reflects his early training as a “watercolor” painter.
Jordaens’ importance can also be seen by his number of pupils; among them were his cousin and his son Jacob. Like Rubens and other artists at that time, Jordaens’ studio relied on his assistants and pupils in the production of his paintings.
In addition to being a well-known portrait painter, Jordaens also employed his pencil in biblical, mythological, and allegorical subjects and even etched a number of plates. Although primarily a history painter, he also painted illustrations of Flemish proverbs, such as the “Old Sing so the Young Twitter”, and depictions of Flemish festivals, for example “The King Drinks.”
After Rubens’ death in 1640 Jordaens became Antwerp’s new leading artist. Only after achieving this status did Jordaens receive royal commissions, predominantly from the north. He also received a commission from Ruben’s heirs to finish a Hercules and an Andromeda for Philip IV of Spain.