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Russian Jordaens. Paintings by Jacob Jordaens from Russian Collections
September 17 - November 30
Pushkin Fine Arts Museum Pushkin Fine Arts Museum

The Pushkin State Museum presents the exhibition “Russian Jordaens. Paintings and Drawings by Jacob Jordaens from Russian Collections,” which will feature landmark pieces of Flemish artist Jacob (Jacques) Jordaens and convey the interest shown for his works in Russia. The exhibition will be the first to present almost all of the master’s paintings and drawings that are held in Russian museums: the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the State Hermitage Museum, the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts, the Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum, and the Perm State Art Gallery. One of the works will be displayed courtesy of the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg. The exhibition shall comprise 18 paintings and 31 drawings reflecting the milestones of Jordaens’s artistic journey, the diversity of his themes and genres, and the evolution of his style.

Jacob (Jacques) Jordaens was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and tapestry designer known for his history paintings, genre scenes and portraits. After Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, he was the leading Flemish Baroque painter of his day. Unlike those contemporaries he never travelled abroad to study Italian painting, and his career is marked by an indifference to their intellectual and courtly aspirations. In fact, except for a few short trips to locations in the Low Countries, he remained in Antwerp his entire life. As well as being a successful painter, he was a prominent designer of tapestries. Like Rubens, Jordaens painted altarpieces, mythological, and allegorical scenes, and after 1640—the year Rubens died—he was the most important painter in Antwerp for large-scale commissions and the status of his patrons increased in general. However, he is best known today for his numerous large genre scenes based on proverbs in the manner of his contemporary Jan Brueghel the Elder, depicting The King Drinks and As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young. Jordaens' main artistic influences, besides Rubens and the Brueghel family, were northern Italian painters such as Jacopo Bassano, Paolo Veronese, and Caravaggio.

Jordaens was born on 19 May 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' 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 interest 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 in the Everdijstraat 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 "waterschilder", or watercolor artist. This medium was often used for preparing tapestry cartoons in the seventeenth century. although examples of his earliest watercolour 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' 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 "watercolour" painter.

The title of the exhibition, “Russian Jordaens,” emphasizes the fact that the presentation will bring together works of his that are specifically found in Russian collections. Most of them arrived in Russia as early as the second half of the 18th century and originated from the best European collections of that time, including British (by Robert Walpole), French (by Pierre Crozat), and German (by Ernst Gotzkowsky and Count Heinrich von Brühl). Some of the paintings were bought by Empress Catherine II for the Hermitage Museum founded in 1764. It was Catherine II who purchased Jordaens’s monumental “The Lamentation” from a Berlin collection and later donated it to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg. Russian aristocrats followed the example of the Empress and started to collect paintings of Flemish Golden Age masters, including Jacob Jordaens.

Russian museums hold a small but interesting collection of works by Jordaens, boasting his best pieces of art in almost all genres. Chronologically, these works represent the time period from when the artist was named an independent master of the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke until the mid-1660s. An important part of the exhibition comprises four paintings displayed courtesy of Russian regional museums: “Christ and the Samaritan Woman” (from the Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum), “Meleager and Atalanta” (from the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts), “Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas at Lystra,” and “The Feast of the Bean King” (both from the Perm State Art Gallery). Until now, these works have scarcely been known to the general public or even to experts. “The Lamentation” from the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg will be exhibited in Moscow for the first time. The painting is leaving the Lavra for only the second time (after relocation from the State Hermitage) in over 225 years to be exhibited in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

In recent years, several of Jordaens’s paintings have undergone intensive restoration and were studied by leading Russian scholars. In particular, “Meleager and Atalanta” from the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts, previously deemed to be a replica of a well-known work by Jordaens, was determined to be a genuine work by the master from an early period of his artistic career based on the artist’s signature found by art conservators.

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