This is a welcome addition to the body of literature on Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678), an artist still insufficiently scrutinized, notwithstanding a flurry of publications during the present decade. Matías Díaz Padrón, former head of Dutch and Flemish paintings at the Prado, manages to assemble an impressive amount of material related to Jordaens and Spain, in the process enlivening the debate with several audacious/adventurous attributions.
The first volume starts with an extensive essay on the historical reception of Jordaens’s work in Spain. Díaz Padrón identifies Rubens as the leading figure in the introduction of paintings by Jordaens at court, thanks to his projects for Philip IV such as the Torre de la Parada and at the Alcazar palace. His archival research demonstrates that Jordaens’s work often was misattributed to Rubens and this condition endured and worsened in Bourbon times. Only few archival records point to the historical presence of paintings by Jordaens in the collections of Spanish nobles and the Church, for the latter curiously concentrated in Andalucia. Tapestries after designs by the artist seem to have been considerably more in demand, although there is insufficient proof that their acquisition at that time was inspired by the identity of the designer rather than their subject matter.
The nineteenth century witnesses a marked increase in the presence of paintings by Jordaens in noble and patrician collections, especially in Madrid and Seville, although it cannot be excluded that these paintings already had been in Spain much longer under erroneous names. Interestingly, it was primarily Jordaens’s historical and mythological paintings that found their way to seventeenth-century Spain, mostly linked to Rubens’s projects, whereas his paintings of religious subjects appear to be limited to the southern port cities, possibly in tow with the overseas trade. Jordaens’s influence on Spanish artists seems to have been limited although Díaz Padrón convincingly argues the case of a Moses Striking the Rock by Murillo, which is much indebted to a painting of the same subject by Jordaens, preserved today at the J. Paul Getty Museum but once in Seville.
The remainder of the first volume is devoted to a well documented catalogue of paintings by Jordaens, several little known, that were at one time or still are on Spanish soil or in Spanish possession abroad. It is divided by subject matter into religious, mythological and historical works, portraiture and genre paintings. Thus Jordaens’s participation in the painted decorations for the joyous entry of the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand into Antwerp is amply discussed, although none of these canvases are known ever to have reached Spain. Allowing for this larger scope, it seems a missed opportunity not to have done research on Jordaens’s artistic activities for Isabella Clara Eugenia and her husband Albert as Governors of the Spanish Netherlands. Young Jordaens paints the couple already circa 1616 (KHM, Vienna, inv. 6344 & 6345 where erroneously catalogued as by Rubens), admittedly based on a now lost invention by Rubens. He paints Isabella Clara Eugenia at least once more, probably posthumously, this time as a nun in the habit of the Poor Clares (London, Sotheby’s, July 10, 2002, lot 5).
In view of the fact that there exists no catalogue raisonné of Jordaens’s oeuvre, as there is for Van Dyck and Rubens – the latter in the magisterial Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard – this review includes some pertinent information on individual catalogue entries:
Cat. 4. Susanna and the Elders (Private Coll. Madrid): to judge from the black and white illustration this is more likely a replica of the composition in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels, rather than the other way round, as stated in the catalogue.
Cat. 19. The Advent of the Prince (lost): as shown through archival documents by J.R. Martin (The Decorations for the Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi, CRLB, XVI, 1972, p. 48 notes 1 & 2) the painting is likely to have been merely retouched by Jordaens for a sum of 300 guilders after Cornelis Schut had already received 1,113 guilders for his work and declined to continue. An attribution in full to Jordaens appears unjustified.
Cat. 20. The Voyage of the Prince from Barcelona to Genoa (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden) & Cat. 21, The Meeting of the Two Ferdinands at Nördlingen (KHM, Vienna): one would wish specifically with regard to these interesting attributions in full to Jordaens that the author substantiated his otherwise expansive catalogue notes with a stylistic analysis. Archival research by J.R. Martin shows indeed Jordaens but also Jan Cossiers and associates received jointly payment for their work on these two large canvases.
Cat. 22. The Marriage of Maximilian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy (Sainte-Savine): the 150 florins paid to Jordaens, as stated by Díaz Padrón, are merely payment for restauration work two years after the glorious entry. An actual total of 4,954 guilders had been paid in 1635 to Jordaens and Cornelis de Vos jointly for the present marriage painting and Cat. 23, both by Jordaens, and the portraits of twelve Habsburg rulers by Cornelis de Vos.
Cat. 35. Meleager and Atalanta (Prado, Madrid): Díaz Padrón’s hesitations about the conceptualization of this picture at two considerably distant stages find new support with the recent discovery of the oil sketch in the Swansea Museum, painted on a panel support, tentatively dateable to c. 1620. Scientific and stylistic analysis of the Prado canvas continue to indicate a more likely creation in two stages, the right part indeed dateable to c. 1620, the left part considerably later, possibly c. 1645. The dating of a panel does not necessarily apply to what is painted on it, certainly when stylistic analysis shows that what is painted is entirely in Jordaens’s mature style of c. 1645. Díaz Padrón refers to the version in the Antwerp museum (inv. 844) as an original by Jordaens, which in fact is a copy after the painting in the museum in Ekaterinburg.
Cat. 45. The Poet’s Inspiration (private coll., Madrid): the painting illustrated in reverse as Fig. 4 and described in note 13 as in a French collection has been since 2003 in the Los Angeles County Museum (inv. M.2003.121).
Cat. 46. Pan and Syrinx (Coll. Epiarte, Barcelona): possibly a replica of the original in the Brussels Fine Arts Museums (inv. 3292) but surely not the other way round, as stated by Díaz Padrón. His bibliographic references to purported changes of mind by R.-A. d’Hulst, Nora De Poorter and W. Laureyssens in favor of the Epiarte version are clearly misreadings of their stated reticence.
Cat. 52. Mercury Conducting Psyche to Olympus (private coll., Madrid) is a copy by an anonymous artist after Rubens’s composition in the Liechtenstein Collection. Díaz Padrón states that Jordaens used this composition for one of the canvases with the Story of Psyche, executed for the Queen’s House in Greenwich. To date no paintings of this series could be identified with certainty, nor any other type of visual record. Whether the Rubens composition was indeed used by Jordaens remains hypothetical.
Cat. 57. The Woman, the Fool and His Cat (Coll. Epiarte, Barcelona): the positioning of this composition in a window frame is rightly connected to the theatre by the author who, however, omits to explore this further and instead enumerates possible moralistic meanings. The present reviewer identified this composition in 2014 (De Zeventiende Eeuw, 30, 2, p. 234) with a tragedy, Gerard van den Brande’s Rosalinde, Hertoginne van Savoyen, performed by the Antwerp Rhetorician Chamber De Olijftak in 1642. The main character Gielen Leep-Oog is played by an older man who is besotted with a young woman and is fooled by her in making him believe he fathered a child, which turns out to be a kitten in baby’s clothes.
Cat. 59. The Eye of the Master Makes the Horse Fat (private coll., Madrid) and Cat. 61, Food Stall with Vendors (private coll., Seville): the illustrations are difficult to assess but an attribution in full to Jordaens for both paintings seems optimistic.
The second volume gathers an impressive amount of documentation on tapestries in Spanish collections after designs by Jordaens, many of which appear to have reached the peninsula already in the seventeenth century and thus illustrate the commercial success of Southern Netherlandish weavings abroad to which Jordaens contributed in no mean way by his ability to provide and transpose desirable subject matter to cartoons for the weavers. Besides historical and mythological themes, paintings of which by the artist related to Spain are limited, subjects such as the Riding School, Proverbs and Scenes of Country Life proved popular with Spanish patrons. The artist’s creative process is amply discussed at the hand of drawings and literary sources.
The volume ends with listings of copies after Jordaens, paintings erroneously attributed to the artist, excerpts from Spanish inventories mentioning works by Jordaens and nineteenth-century auction records from Spanish proprietors.
In conclusion, a few comments are in order:
T. 31. As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young (Museo Diocesano Tarragona): contrary to Díaz Padrón’s dating of the paintings related to this tapestry, stylistic evidence proves that the half-length painted version in the Antwerp Museum, dated 1638 (inv. 677), is considerably earlier than the full-length painted version in a private collection which must, just as the watercolor at the National Gallery, Edinburgh (inv. D.1192), be dated to the 1644 order of a set of designs for tapestries.
A. 2. Moses and the Israelites Gathering Manna in the Desert (private coll., Madrid): oil on panel 126.5 x 212 cm, considered a copy by Díaz Padrón is in fact one of the earliest known autograph panels by the young Jordaens. The cropped illustration in the 1990 auction catalogue (London, Christie’s, May 18, 1990, lot 122) shows the extent of paint losses and is far more eloquent than the illustration of a heavily restored panel (not canvas as stated by Díaz Padrón) in which form it was subsequently offered at Sotheby’s, London, December 8, 2005, lot 229, now in a Madrid collection.