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Comparing Artwork of Jordaens and Van Dyck

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Comparing Art

            Art is a commodity; and Flemish art in the 17th century is no different. This paper will seek to compare and contrast the artwork of Jordaens and Van Dyck through the aspects of not only their use of color, composition and subject matter but also how the global audience or the art dealer/collector would respond to their paintings and why they would have preference for one over the other. Thus, in order to get a full scope of Jordaens and Van Dyck a political scheme of the era must be paid attention to, as well as the religious arenas between the North and the South of the Netherlands.

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            During the 17th century, an artist was able to create a niche for themselves based on their subject matter; for the country was split into the North being Protestant and the South being Catholic (due to certain wars and ruling monarchs having sway over the religious practices of the countrymen and therefore their iconoclastic preferences).

Therefore, since Van Dyck was a painter for the Counter Reformation his work was best and widely received in the South since his paintings offered more for the Catholic zealot. Converse to this, Jordaens was well received in the North were his more Protestant subject matter would hold more relevance (as is seen with the soft tones of the familial scene of Mary, Joseph and Christ surrounded by Shepherds in The Holy Family with Shepherds). It is in the Catholic aristocracy that art is commissioned, and Van Dyck found his market with the Church and rich art patrons;

Van Dyck emphasizes the inner drama of these situations, and in the true spirit of the Counter Reformation the paintings move the onlooker to compassion. In addition to such scenes of pathos, he painted a great number of Madonnas and Holy Families, for the cult of the Virgin had been greatly increased by pious opposition to the Protestants’ denial of her divinity and their systematic destruction of her images. In these pictures, as in his representations of saints, the emotional emphasis of the period is apparent, with tenderness, melancholy, and rapture the dominant moods. Ichnographically, too, the artist adhered to the new precepts of the Church (Montebello 134).

Such respect for Divinity is shown in the clean nature of Van Dyck’s piece Virgin and Child with Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

The grandeur of the moment is emphasized with the rich colors, the rust red of the saint and the cherub Christ body. Jordaens work is more real, more mundane or secular and less spiritual than Van Dyck’s. A testament to this is that Jordaens is willing to show Mary breastfeeding, with her breast in frontal position for the viewer to see; there is nothing divine about the work, but everything about it is human, dirty, and exactly what a Protestant would love. The Christ child in either painting is worth attention. In Jordaens painting, the child is akin to any other hungry child; it spies the breast milk and eyes the breast with hunger a very real, human trait, not anything one would expect a divine child to be doing. In Van Dyck’s interpretation of mother and child, Christ is pushed away from his mother, seemingly in his own world; thus while Jordaens’ painting shows a warmth of family, Van Dyck’s caters to the holiness of the child and makes his presence less human by making the child a solitary object almost out of his mother’s arms. The item that is most striking in either painting is the use of the gaze; Jordaens offers a communal event where each figure is actively gazing at one another even the Christ child eyes his mother’s breast while Van Dyck’s painting only offers an ambiguous feel to the relationship between the three figures, they are almost stoic in their stances and their interaction with one another is static at best.

            There is a felt sense of a difference in hierarchy in either artists’ work; in Jordaens, the fabric he chooses to paint are for a lower class family, as though he is paying attention to Mary and Joseph having to travel to Bethlehem in order to pay taxed and were so poor they had to stay in a barn, albeit, their clothes in this painting certainly represent this story (perhaps for the benefit of the Protestant market) while Van Dyck’s painting gives off a rich hue to the clothing that is a throwback to Titian’s own incorporation of celestial (even Christ’s body seems to shine like a bright light, as though he had just bathed in heaven). The rich fabrics of the women, Mary and Saint Catherine give off the quality that the Catholic faith certainly does offer riches in heaven which shows that the paintings was commissioned by the Catholic Church (Montebello 138).

This hierarchy of characters as depicted through their clothing even transcends to the character’s rank in the painting. Jordaens offers his Protestant viewers shepherds clothed in working man’s poor garments, which hold no luster or light in comparison to the brightness of Saint Catherine’s rich fabrics in Van Dyck’s interpretation of the scene. The artist’s choices of personages to accompany the Christ child are interesting to note in accordance to either artists’ religion (or commission).

            The composition of Van Dyck’s work, with his noted rich fabrics, also includes the landscape of a garden. The focus on the background shifts in either painting as Van Dyck’s garden is pitted against a non-background in Jordaens’ work. Jordaens’ use of a closed in familial scene places more emphasis on the immediate figures while Van Dyck’s scene wishes to interact his figures with the landscape, perhaps alluding to Christ’s place (and his belonging to) with the world.

            In conclusion, the religious leanings of either artist contributed greatly to their end product. Their work then, depending on the religious zealots of either North or South in the Netherlands cemented their commissions and their market. The fact that Antwerp was the port of sail allowed for predominant Catholic countries to establish Van Dyck’s work across the globe especially in Italy who in the 17th century imported many Counter Reformation paintings. Jordaens’ market grew, but not at such an exponential rate as Van Dyck’s, but the growing interest of London in Flemish art aided to Jordaens’ popularity. What differentiated artists in Antwerp during the first half of the 17th century was their ability to capture an audience, whether through their subjects’ attire, the artists’ prior influences, or the supporting roles of the main subjects. Whether it was Jordaens’ secular interpretation of Christ or Van Dyck’s more traditional stoic stance on the Christ child, either artist found a niche and an audience through their artistic endeavors. Either artist’s treatment of their subject matter and the way in which they decided to interpret holy moments and characters is what divided each man. The drab clothes of Jordaens and the bright and rich textures of Van Dyck are the division marks but their care for their subject matter and the obvious importance they gave to such characters is relevant in each mans’ work: It is this love of the subject that allowed each artist their popularity with merchants, and with different markets.

Works Cited

Jordaens, Jacob. The Holy Family and Shepherds. 9 April 2009. Online. The Metropolitan Museum

            Of Art.

            <http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/european_paintings/the            holy_family_with_shepherds_jacob_jordaens/objectview.aspx?collID=11&OID=11000 242>

Montebello, Guy-Philippe de. Van Dyck, Painter of the Counter Reformation. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Dec., 1963), pp. 133-142.

Van Dyck, Anthony. Virgin and Child and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. 9 April 2009. Online.           The Metropolitan Museum Of Art.

<http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/european_paintings/vir            in_and_child_with_saint_catherine_of_alexandria_anthony_van_dyck/objectview.aspx?            ollID=11&OID=110000702>

Cite this Comparing Artwork of Jordaens and Van Dyck

Comparing Artwork of Jordaens and Van Dyck. (2016, Jul 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/comparing-art/

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