Jordaens recreates an intimate family atmosphere, no doubt stemming from his own life, in terms of the figures, clothes and furniture displayed in the painting. The two candles heighten the visual effect of the painting; they are artificial light sources, creating a strong contrast, deepening shadows and throwing the shapes of the characters into deep relief. The religious character of the painting resides exclusively in the figure of the infant Saint John the Baptist, who alone bears clearly identifiable religious attributes: the staff ending in a cross piece, the belted camelhair shirt. Also, clearly significant, is the character’s reaction to the touch of the hand of Jesus, a trance-like state that foreshadows his future prophetic role. The figure of Saint John the Baptist also helps to identify precisely the other characters in the painting: the Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus and Saint Joseph, bending protectively over the group. The figure to the right of the painting in the upper tract is Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist; both Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary carry a candle, symbolizing the blessing of the special grace of motherhood, bestowed upon them. Jordaens used a model, for the female figure on the left side of the painting that would appear in several paintings between 1621 and 1630. We can only speculate on the exact role of this woman in the composition; most probably, her function is of a witness, symbolizing humanity. Her stand combines devotion with humble astonishment at having being chosen to be part of the holy scene. ©Dana Roxana Hrib, European Art Gallery Guidebook, Second edition, Sibiu 2011.


  • Title: The Holy Family
  • Creator: Jacob Jordaens
  • Date: 1625 - 1630
  • Physical Dimensions: w113.1 x h118.5 cm (Without frame)
  • Photo copyright: ©Christof Weber
  • Collecting: Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania
  • Artist Biography: A Flemish painter, born in Antwerp, Master of the Guild of Painters in the city from the year 1621 and owner of a very successful workshop, Jacob Jordaens was Rubens’s main associate, after Van Dyck’s departure for Italy (1622). He studied with Adam van Noort, as Rubens did, and came to be considered the number-two celebrity, after his even more famous associate, among the painters of the Flemish school. The artistic manner of the two famous painters has much in common, such as: the same warm tones, the same naturalism, the perfect mastery of chiaroscuro and the same skill in presenting the energetic physiognomy of their portrait subjects. By far the most important influence upon Jordaens’ paintings came from the work of Rubens, with its ample and abundantly blessed, carnal female figures and robust male characters. Thematically, Jordaens specialized in genre scenes and convivial meals scenes, biblical and mythological themes, as well as allegorically treated historical subjects; he also grew to be one of the most successful portrait painters of his time. ©Dana Roxana Hrib, European Art Gallery Guidebook, Second edition, Sibiu 2011.
  • Provenance: Brukenthal National Museum
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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