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As the Old Sing, So the Young PipeEnlarge image

As the Old Sing, So the Young Pipe, c. 1640

Jacob Jordaens (and Workshop)
Flemish, 1593 - 1678
oil on canvas
145.5 x 218 cm
Purchased 1969
National Gallery of Canada (no. 15790)

OLD - old The title is a proverb meaning that children take after adults. Three generations of a family carouse, the eldest the worse for wear and clearly not setting the best example. Next to him, a man plays the recorder and is imitated by his son; the youngest child’s teething aid also serves as a whistle. Jordaens takes delight in the abundance – some of which signifies indulgence, some with specific meaning, like the parrot, known for its mimicry. Scenes of celebration, tempered by moralizing messages, were popular and a reliable source of income. Jordaens planned the composition and executed parts of it, delegating the rest to his assistants, including a specialist in still-life painting. Traditionally, the master would also finish and enliven the work through final corrections and retouching, yet these touches could also be emulated, as in Rubens’ workshop, by an assistant who understood the expectation of a certain kind of panache. For instance, the carelessly applied highlights on the fabrics imply Jordaens’ active involvement, but are certainly not by him. In the most expressive and important elements of the painting – faces and hands – we can clearly see him at work.

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