National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 13, 1969

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Reflections on the Jordaens Exhibition

by Michael Jaffe

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The following observations were made:

1 Jordaens developed early an obsessive dislike of wasting any paper on which he could draw. This economy, since he was never a needy man and became a rich one, was not dictated primarily by financial stringency, but rather by psychological, perhaps even moral, considerations. In that sense, he might even be held to have been psychologically prepared to embrace Calvinism.

2 He seems almost to have preferred to work on a sheet pieced together of scraps-whether by himself, his family or his pupils is not known-either for painting or for drawing [e.g., Nos. 59, 82-84, 147, 158, 171], rather than take a whole fresh sheet. General exceptions to this quirk appear to have been made for portrait studies [e.g., Nos. 178, 179, 193], and for drawings which were to be kept or sold as "show-pieces," virtually in their own right [e.g., Nos. 187, 231]. As might also be expected, openings from sketch-books remained integral [e.g., Nos. 131, 132].

3 He disliked trimming a deckle edge {did he make his own paper?). Pristine edges show plainly, e.g., in Nos. 148, 218. For both these drawings he pieced out his working surface to a suitable rectangle by underlaying the deckle with a straight-edged piece. Such augmentations are neither repairs nor later additions. Where his main piece of paper had edges already cut, although irregularly [e.g., Nos. 256, 258, 259, 262], he would likewise piece them out to the desired size with additional strips. But again these augmentations were made before he began drawing.

4 Occasionally he did add pieces of paper and draw on them, after his original drawing had been finished. This is particularly clear when, in the 1660s, he chose to expand drawings resplendent in water-colours [e. g., Nos. 222, 263], by strips worked more simply in red and black chalks with ink used as wash or pen work.

5 Faced with some complicated problems in figure composition, he was ready to use knife and paste for cut-outs and overlays [e.g., Nos. 167, 192, 223].

Notes on the Catalogue

General Introduction

In addition to what was said (p. 47) about the tributes paid by Jordaens to Goltzius, mention should be made of Saenredam's 1596 engraving after Goltzius's WORSHIP OF CERES, as a likely source of Jordaens's inspiration for undertaking the subject himself; see below under Nos. 141 and 171.

The point might have been made, in discussing the predilection of Jordaens for what was traditional in Flemish taste, that his zest for depicting the illumination of an interior-particularly through the reflections, on a wall, of sunlight filtered and shaped by panes of glass-stems from his sharing his fellow countrymen's love for Dürer's ST. JEROME IN HIS STUDY (B. 60). This was particularly to be observed in the exhibition in "AS THE OLD SING, SO THE YOUNG TWITTER" from Valenciennes [No. 65], and in the Stockholm TELEMACHUS BRINGS THEOKLYMENUS TO HIS MOTHER PENELOPE [No. 180].

omething should have been said of the occasional late recrudescence of High Renaissance ideals of axial bisymmetry and pyramidal grouping in Jordaens's compositions, conspicuously in THE HOLY FAMILY EMBARKED [No. 105] of 1652; in THE DEATH OF CLEOPATRA [No. 107] of 1653; in the Leningrad MARRIAGE GROUP [No. 106]; and later still in the RESURRECTION modello at Ghent [No. 113], and in CHRIST'S MIRACULOUS POWERS OF HEALING [No. 260] in its final form. This taste is varied by the closely enmeshed configurations, directed frieze-like to left or right, e.g., Nos. 109, 111, 112, 115 and 259, which are dated 1657 or datable thereabouts.

The name of Annibale Carracci should have been included on pp. 49, 50. In addition to the possible influence of Annibale which was discussed in the entries for THE BOATING PARTY [No.173] and NEPTUNE CREATING THE HORSE [No. 81], mention should have been made of the possibility , discussed and illustrated by Professor J. S. Held in his review of the exhibition in the Burlington Magazine, (6) that Jordaens was inspired by Willem van Haecht's etching after Annibale's HOLY FAMILY EMBARKED for the "idea of the billowing sail and the standing Christ Child in his own [Nos. 105, 245]."


Introduction, p.67, n. 3: Agnew's 1817-1967, London, 1967, illustrates this portrait, mistakenly as by Rubens. (7)

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