Jacob Jordaens and Hendrick Terbrugghen are two great artists of the Baroque period. Both of them excellently represent the art of their time, and both leave a mark to younger generations of painters and audience. However, if we try to compare the works of these two painters, one would naturally outdo the other, and one’s work would become inferior. As such, both are great artists, the audience’s preference might somehow be more favorable to one and biased to the other. In any case, it should be noted that this paper presents solely the author’s opinion, and is not intended to offend lovers of art.
In Jordaens’s The Temptation of Magdalene, we see the application of a religious theme with the Magdalene’s temptation. Likewise, Terbrugghen’s The Denial of Saint Peter employs a religious theme with St. Peter as the main subject. While both artists employ the religious theme which is characteristic of the Baroque art, they demonstrate different styles, and elicit different responses from the audience.
Comparing the overall effect that the two artists achieved in their paintings, there is more depth and magnanimity in the work of Jordaens than that of Terbrugghen. In particular, Jordaen showed full focus of the subject, while Terbrugghen captured his with less concentration. This affects the dramatic effect of the work, in that the latter does not convey the mystery of the scenario.
Several factors clearly suggest the reason behind Terbrugghen’s inability to attain focus and magnanimity. One of which is the presence of many elements in the scene. Instead of involving St. Peter and his offenders, the artist showed some background people who are not directly involved in the scene. Particularly, the use of space was fully maximized in a way that destructs the audience because of the people supposedly gathered in the other room on the right.
In Jordaens’s however, focus is fully achieved by the perfect use of space. He depicted only three characters who are truly part of the scene, and maximized space with focus. Specifically, he made two-thirds of the space full, leaving one-third empty or dark.
Moreover, the lines Jordaens used contribute to the focus on the subject. Looking closely, one will notice that the slightly diagonal lines forming a triangle at the upper middle work they way up to the focus, which is the face of Magdalene.
Similarly, Terbrugghen employed a triangular angle formed across the whole scene, but the middle of the triangle does not present the main subject or the denial of St. Peter, instead it has the pointing finger of Peter’s accuser, isolated in the empty background.
In terms of color and contrast, Jordaens used strong color contrasts by using bright colors which he made soft through good combination. For instance, for Magdalene’s coat, the artist achieved bright red with the tint of red-orange and soft white for the shadow. Likewise, he used a dark background which was neither empty nor full. He came up with a dark one with some things that look hidden. In doing so, Jordaens achieved mystery and focus on the subject.
The contrast in Terbrugghen is not very clear as he used soft earth colors throughout the whole painting. Unlike Jordaens who used strong colors of red and gold, Terbrugghen used colors that did not vary and contrast. Although the colors he employed are not boring, they are not alive either. The colors are rather plain, which leads to the inability to achieve focus and drama.
Also, the texture of Jordaen’s is enhanced by the color combination that he used. The close angle that he made particularly required this texture. However, the artist made some imperfections with the way he made the old woman’s arm vanish in the dark. This angle should be a little solid because it is a body part connected to the hand in the scene.
In Terbrugghen’s, the use of texture is given less importance. As the scene depicts a big scenario, it looks as if detached from the audience and vice versa. Unlike the other painting which involves the audience by capturing interest, this work looks dull and less interesting.
The symbolism that artists use is another thing to be considered in evaluating a work of art. In Jordaens’s, we see a woman holding a rosary and a vessel, which both represent Magdalene’s contrition and faith. Also, the garment worn by the angel shows royalty and power, possibly representing the power of God.
In Terbrugghen’s, however, the use of fire does not correspond to the scene of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Fire would have been a symbol for one’s burning faith and love for someone, but in this case, it was used only to light up the scene. Also, Peter’s accuser lacks power and force. Roman soldiers could have made the scene more credible.
Another factor that made Terbrugghen’s work more inferior to Jordaens’s is the use of the shadows. The first used soft shadows that blended easily to the primary scheme while the latter employed very strong shadow contrast that made the whole picture alive.
Furthermore, the overall effect Jordaens achieved is more dramatic and remarkable than that of Terbrugghen’s. Particularly, the painting of Magdalene shows the woman’s contrite expression in the scene. The facial expression and posture depict how people in their times feel whenever they commit sins. It gives us an idea on how bothered they feel when they are tempted, or sin against God. Thus, in the historical perspective, Jordaens was able to present an image of the people during the 17th century.
On a different note, Terbrugghen achieved less drama and effect. Although the gesture in his subject (St. Peter) is well thought of, the facial expression might be misinterpreted as doubt and not denial. While being questioned by a woman, Peter should project an expression of denial rather than curiosity. To do such, the artist could have made Peter turn his back on the other characters in the scene.
Overall, applying the Reader Response Theory, Jordaens’s work looks more appealing and noteworthy for its ability to capture the audience’s attention with the proper combination of color, texture, symbolism, and contrast. The way the artist employed the elements of art, and his choice of the subject presents the elite art of its period, which is characteristic of the elite artists during his time. The Temptation of Magdalene vividly portrays not only the art of its time, but also the artist and his elite background.
Terbrugghen’s The Denial of Saint Peter similarly represents the art of its time by the subject it depicts, but it represents a different view of artists during the Baroque era. Unlike the other painting, this particularly represents a less learned artist. Based on this painting, we could say that the artist comes from a less elite background than that of Jordaens’s or Terbrugghen could have probably had less training and experience during the time he produced this painting. Nevertheless, his work is an important contribution to art, as it depicted the simplicity of life, with the plain and simple clothes his subjects wear.
Terbrugghen, Hendrick. “The Denial of Saint Peter.” Oil on Canvas. 1628. Retrieved 9 May 2008 < http://www.pbase.com/singkit/image/70086273>.
Jordaens, Jacob. “The Temptation of Magdalene.” Oil on Panel. 1616. Retrieved 9 May 2008 < http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/111613>.