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Painting hanging in council office is Baroque masterpiece

The institute used infra-red technology to study the work. © IRPA-KIK

A painting that has hung for 60 years in an office in Saint-Gilles town hall has been identified as a Baroque original by the Flemish artist Jacob Jordaens.

The painting decorating the office wall of the municipal councillor for town planning was assumed to be a copy, until an inventory was carried out by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (IRPA), and experts began asking questions.

After verification, the wood-panel painting was discovered to be the earliest version of a view of the Holy Family painted several times by Jordaens. Other iterations of the work are currently in the possession of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.

The work has been dated to 1617-1618.

A detailed analysis even revealed that the wood of the Jordaens panel comes from the same tree that was used in several compositions by Anthony Van Dyck, another Baroque Master,” the Institute said. “This finding strengthens the existing hypothesis that as young artists, Jordaens and Van Dyck were both active in Rubens’ studio.”

Jacob (Jacques) Jordaens (1593-1678) was born in Antwerp and lived and worked there all his life, apart from a few trips in the Low Countries. He was a successful painter during his lifetime, and is generally considered to be one of a triumvirate of Flemish Baroque painters, together with Pieter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyke.

After the death of Rubens in 1640, Jordaens was the main painter in Antwerp for major commissions. Van Dyck, meanwhile, had been working in London as court painter to Charles I, and died a year after Rubens.

The painting will now go into a year-long period of restoration, carried out by the Royal Institute and financed by urban.brussels, the regions agency for cultural heritage. It will then go into the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, where it will augment what is already the world’s largest collection of Jordaens’ works.

It’s an extraordinary moment of emotion to discover an original work by one of the greatest Baroque painters,” said Constantin Pion, art historian at the Royal Institute.

Just as it is to experience the fascinating scientific investigation that revealed that this Holy Family is an early painting and represents an important milestone in the work of Jacques Jordaens.”

A video (in French) explaining the discovery has been posted to YouTube.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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