Of the three greats of 17th-century Flemish painting – Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens – Jordaens is perhaps the least known in France, having never had a major retrospective in this country. Now, the Petit Palais is taking on the challenge: in the field of classical painting Jordaens: the Pride of Antwerp is set to be the major event of the upcoming Paris exhibition season.
Backed up by superb scenography and numerous loans of remarkable works from leading French and International museums, this retrospective will restore Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) to his rightful place as the pride of Antwerp. Still hard at work more than thirty years after Rubens' death in 1640, Jordaens’ long career and the ability to turn out sizable, dazzling canvases with the assistance of a rigorously organised workshop, saw him provide a whole section of Europe with altar paintings and large, mythological compositions. At a time when Antwerp was in decline as the Continent's economic capital, Jordaens kept its prestige alive with the sheer abundance and colourfulness of his artistic output.
On loan from collections not only in Belgium, but also in Russia, America, Sweden, Hungary, Jerusalem, Madrid and Vienna, the 120 works on show at the Petit Palais are an eloquent testimony to the extent and variety of his inspiration: from family portraits to large religious works, from the famous Flemish Proverbs series to banquet scenes, such as The King Drinks and tapestry cartoons. Here, we see a bourgeois man who hardly ever left his home city drawing on a host of sources ranging from Rubens to Caravaggio, the Venetian Renaissance masters and the heritage of antiquity, and combining them with the personal verve that won him international renown.
The exhibition is punctuated by information points which provide visitors access to the stories behind the works and to the painter's 'trade secrets'. It is also accompanied, by a detailed, splendidly illustrated catalogue.
Alexis Merle du Bourg, art historian
Maryline Assante di Panzillo, chef curator at the Petit Palais
I found tis exhibition a bit overwhelming. Just too many paintings. Also Jordaens worked in so many styles, it was hard to follow. I find his scenes of peasant life to be masterpieces, but can't say I think as highly of his religious or mythological paintings.The audio tour was only available in French and was difficult for me to follow, although I speak French rather well. I could get about 80% of it, but it was an effort and I couldn't listen and look at the paintings at the same time. Still Jordaens is a great master and the exhibit is well worth seeing.