Flemish Baroque Era Painter, 1593-1678
Jacob Jordeans was born on May 19, 1593, the first of eleven children, to the wealthy linen merchant Jacob Jordaens Sr. and Barbara van Wolschaten in Antwerp. Little is known about Jordaens's early education. It can be assumed that he received the advantages of the education usually provided for children of his social class. This assumption is supported by his clear handwriting, his competence in French and in his knowledge of mythology. Jordaens familiarity with biblical subjects is evident in his many religious paintings, and his personal interaction with the Bible was strengthened by his later conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism. Like Rubens, he studied under Adam van Noort, who was his only teacher. During this time Jordaens lived in Van Noort's house and became very close to the rest of the family. After eight years of training with Van Noort, he enrolled in the Guild of St. Luke as a "waterscilder", or watercolor artist. This medium was often used for preparing tapestry cartoons in the seventeenth century. although examples of his earliest watercolor works are no longer extant. In the same year as his entry into the guild, 1616, he married his teacher's eldest daughter, Anna Catharina van Noort, with whom he had three children. In 1618, Jordaens bought a house in Hoogstraat (the area in Antwerp that he grew up in). He would then later buy the adjoining house to expand his household and workspace in 1639, mimicking Rubens's house built two decades earlier. He lived and worked here until his death in 1678.
Jordaens never made the traditional trip to Italy to study classical and Renaissance art. Despite this, he made many efforts to study prints or works of Italian masters available in northern Europe. For example, Jordaens is known to have studied Titian, Veronese, Caravaggio, and Bassano, either through prints, copies or originals (such as Caravaggio's Madonna of the Rosary). His work, however, betrays local traditions, especially the genre traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, in honestly depicting Flemish life with authenticity and showing common people in the act of celebratory expressions of life. His commissions frequently came from wealthy local Flemish patrons and clergy, although later in his career he worked for courts and governments across Europe. Besides a large output of monumental oil paintings he was a prolific tapestry designer, a career that reflects his early training as a "watercolor" painter.
Jordaens' importance can also be seen by his number of pupils; the Guild of St. Luke records fifteen official pupils from 1621 to 1667, but six others were recorded as pupils in court documents and not the Guild records, so it is probable that he had more students than officially recorded. Among them were his cousin and his son Jacob. Like Rubens and other artists at that time, Jordaens' studio relied on his assistants and pupils in the production of his paintings. Not many of these pupils went on to fame themselves,however a position in Jordaens's studio was highly desirable for young artists from across Europe.