Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)

Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)

Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593 – 1678 Antwerp)

Allegory on the Teachings of St Augustine

Pen and brown ink, blue, brown, green and pink wash, heightened with white, on light brown prepared paper, 120 x 132 mm (4.7 x 5.2 inch); laid down on a collector’s mount with framing lines in yellow wash, pen and brown ink and graphite

Inscribed ‘J Jordaens’ (pen and brown ink, on the mount)

- Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), London (Lugt 2364; the stamp applied at lower left)
- Wilhelm König (1880–1955), Vienna (Lugt 2653b; the stamp applied on verso of backing sheet)
- Private collection, USA
- Private collection, Belgium


Together with Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) and Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), Jacob Jordaens is one of the three giants of Flemish 17th-century painting.1 After the death of Rubens in 1640 until the early 1660s, he was more in demand than any other artist in Northern Europe.2 In 1607 Jordaens became a pupil of Adam van Noort, who also taught Rubens, and in 1615 he joined the painters’ guild as a ‘waterschilder’, a painter in tempera and watercolours. In 1634-35 he collaborated with Rubens on decorations for the triumphal entry of the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand into Antwerp. Many prestigious commissions followed: a group of twenty-two paintings for the Queen’s House at Greenwich in 1639, thirty-five large paintings for Queen Christiana of Sweden in 1648, commissions for the Huis ten Bosch from Prince Frederick Henry of Orange from 1649 to 1652, and a series of twelve scenes of the Passion for King of Sweden in the 1650s. In 1669, the 67-year-old Jordaens was still said to be ‘painting assiduously’.

Jordaens was an active draughtsman, often producing several studies in prepation for oil paintings and designs for tapestries.3 His drawings are frequently done in a combination of techniques, either in red and black chalk or pen and brown ink, with coloured washes and white heightening, highly attractive and spontaneous, truly the work of an artist who was foremost a ‘waterschilder’.

This attractive sheet is a preparatory study for Jordaens’s painting of the same subject of c. 1655-60 in the Staatsgalerie Aschaffenburg, Germany (see fig.).4 The subject is exceptional in the visual arts. St Augustine of Hippo (354–430) is one of the Doctors of the Church. He meditated on the wound in Christ’s side, and is commonly identified by a flaming heart, representing the ardour of his love of God. Augustinian monks were firmly established in Antwerp with a monastery in the Everdijstraat, which included a college that provided a classical education for young men, similar to the Jesuits.

This rare subject is similar to a theme which Jordaens explored in four drawings dated to c. 1645, all generally entitled A Moral Allegory; they are preserved in the British Museum, London, the Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, the collection of Jean Bonna, Geneva (see fig.), and one formerly with Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd. (see fig.).5 All four drawings are dominated by a female personification of Religion, holding a chalice, and a robed preacher, variously identified as St Paul, a Protestant preacher or a Catholic priest. The Baroni sketch appears to be preparatory for part of the Bonna sheet, which is overall more finished. Interestingly, although the composition of our drawing is closely related to the Aschaffenburg picture, the figure of the painted St Augustine in Aschaffenburg appears to draw back on the figure of the preacher as seen in the Bonna and Baroni sheets.

The present drawing was owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), himself one of the most esteemed painters of the 18th century, who assembled a spectacular collection of drawings. The printed catalogue of the sale of Reynolds’s collection, held by A.C. de Poggi of New Bond Street, London, from 26 May 1794, includes as a preface a useful table of artists, in which four drawings by Jordaens in Reynolds´s ownership are listed (see fig.).6 Four drawings given to Jordaens were indeed included in the sale, alas without identification of subject or other particulars.7 Professor D’Hulst in his catalogue of Jordaens drawings included four drawings from Reynolds’s collection – however, at least one of these was given to Van Dyck in the 18th century.8

The authorship of this sheet has been confirmed by Prof. Dr. Hans Vlieghe, who described it as a ‘good work’ from Jordaens’s later period, executed after 1650.9


1. There is extensive literature on the the artist, see for instance: Max Rooses, Jordaens’ leven en werken, Antwerp/Amsterdam 1906, R.-A. D’Hulst, Jacob Jordaens, Antwerp 1982, and, more recently, Alexis Merle du Bourg (ed.), Jordaens 1593-1678, exh. cat. Paris (Petit Palais) 2013-14.

2. Walter A. Liedtke, Flemish Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1984, p. 112.

3. For Jordaens as a draughtsman, see: R.-A. D’Hulst, Jacob Jordaens, Brussels 1974, vols. I-IV.

4. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Aschaffenburg; R.-A.D’Hulst 1982, op. cit., p. 250, fig. 220. The connection between the present drawing and the Aschaffenburg painting was first pointed out by Prof. Dr Joost Vander Auwera of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.

5. See Stijn Alsteens, Raphael to Renoir: drawings from the collection of Jean Bonna, exh. cat. New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art) 2009, pp. 105-08, cat. no. 48 (Bonna), figs. 45 (Albertina), 46 (British Museum), 47 (Baroni).

6. A Catalogue of the First Part of the Cabinet of Ancient Drawings, which belonged to Sir Joshua Reynolds (…), A.C. De Poggi, London, 26 May 1794 and further days, p. xvii.

7. ‘Sixth part’, portfolio OO, no. 931 (£0.15s.0d.); portfolio PP, nos. 936 (£1.1s.0d.), 937 (£2.2s.0d.) and 938 (£3.3s.0d.).

8. D’Hulst 1974, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 104-05, no. A7, The Entombment, R.M. Light & Co., Boston, Mass.; vol. II, pp. 409-10, no. A339, The Triumph of Minerva, coll. R.-A. D’Hulst, Dilbeek; vol. II, p. 480, no. B1, Male Nude Seated, British Museum, London; vol. II, p. 481-82, no. B3, Male Nude Seated, from Behind, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

9. Email correspondence 4 February 2010.

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Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)
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