Jacob Jordaens, a Flemish artist, was born in 1593 into the family of an Antwerp linen merchant. He was the pupil of Adam van Noort (since 1607), under whom Rubens had studied briefly. Later Jordaens married van Noort’s daughter, Catharina. In 1615, he joined the St. Lukas Guild and, in 1621, became its deacon.
Jordaens painted religious, mythological, historical subjects, portraits and genre scenes, and big monumental decorations. In his early period, marked by the influence of Caravaggio, the night scenes with candle and moon light prevail. The young master’s individuality was revealed on big-scaled compositions, where several full-length figures fill all the surface of the picture, which lack depth. This method did not change during his working life. Maybe it was the result of his work on wall-hangings, which he designed and painted on linen and which his father sold.
Jordaens did not visit Italy and never tried to imitate the Italian style. Jordaens' optimistic disposition makes him close to Rubens, in whose workshop he was employed several times. Jordaens adopted Rubens’ style, making it his own, but Jordaens lacks Rubens’ inexhaustible fantasy. Even religious and mythological subjects are interpreted by him in a genre manner, his characters are painted from nature and they are taken from everyday life. Sometimes Jordaens’ paintings seem overloaded with massive figures, e.g. Allegory of Fertility.
The talent of Jordaens revealed itself in genre painting; the artist took subjects from folklore – fables, proverbs, and tales. The museums of Moscow, Kassel, Budapest, Munich, Brussels have the variants of the painting The Satyr and the Farmer’s Family, painted on the plot of a fable. The Satyr is surprised by people’s hypocrisy: first a peasant blows on his hands to make them warm and then blows on his plate to make his porridge cold. The satyr, feeling he is being made a fool of, jumps up. Jordaens liked to paint burghers’ families especially during feasts, the subject of ‘The Bean King” (or feast of epiphany, celebrated on the day of adoration of the magi), is repeated by the artist several times. The scene is full of vitality, and rough humour. In 1634, under the supervision of Rubens, Jordaens, along with some other painters, worked on a big commission from the Antwerp magistrate: the decorations for Prince Ferdinand’s visit to the city.
After Rubens’ death, Jordaens became the leader of the Antwerp school, carrying out innumerable commissions for Church and Court between 1640 and 1650, including 22 pictures for the salon on Queen Henrietta Maria at Greenwich, work for the Scandinavia and French courts.
In 1650, the artist adopted Calvinism, but continued to receive commissions from the Catholic Church. The masters of his workshop play more and more important role in fulfilling grandiose and pompous decorative works, and Jordaens himself gradually looses his originality. The artist died in 1678 in Antwerp.
Jacob Jordaens was one of the great Flemish Baroque painters along with Rubens and van Dyck.