M.A. Art History Thesis

Changing Compositions, Economic and Social Influences on the Studio Practices of Jacob Jordaens.

Jacob Jordaens, The Pitcher Goes Often to the Well

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Jacob Jordaens, The Pitcher Goes Often to the Well Until It Breaks, 1638, drawing on paper, 10.6 x 12.3 in. (27 x 31.3 cm). Antwerp Stedelijk Prentenkabinet, Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp, (Inventory Number -PK.OT.00160)

Abstract

The paintings of Jacob Jordaens challenge art historians to unravel a complex creative process. Jordaens known for his quick brush often worked on multiple copies at once. However, his generative process was not always linear. Though not always evident, Jordaens often revisited his paintings to extend their size or re-paint the composition. This ‘trial and error’ experimentation was endemic to Jordaens’ approach. Preparatory sketches reveal that many works were changed during their planning stages. Jordaens often continued to make changes directly on top of completed paintings. New research and technical studies from leading museums and scholars have shown that a distinct subset of Jordaens' paintings were changed and extended decades after their generation. 

It is commonly accepted that these revisions were part of Jordaens’ nature as an artist. However, this simplistic explanation gives no logical motivation to warrant such extensive and labor-intensive re-working. Jordaens was a highly sought-after and busy artist. Could there be a reason that Jordaens preferred to re-paint these paintings rather than to create new ones? My thesis suggests that these justifications lie in Jordaens' established economic reputation and his relationship to the art market. A review of case studies and the contemporary economic context spells out this new connection between Jordaens' reuse of paintings and changes in Antwerp's art market during the 1640's.