Hans III Jordaens

The crossing of the Red Sea

Hans III Jordaens was born around 1595, possibly in Antwerp. Little is known with certainty about his early life; there is still discussion on where and with whom he learnt to paint. Although a family connection has been suggested with Hans I Jordaens and even Jacob Jordaens, none of this has been conclusively proven. The records do reveal that in 1617 Jordaens married Maria van Dijck; in 1620 he joined the guild of St Luke. He seems to have done well for himself as a painter, for by 1624 he already lived in a large house in Antwerp.

Few paintings by him are known; stylistically however, Hans III Jordaens was very close to Frans II Francken, with whom he collaborated from time to time. It is therefore entirely possible that paintings which today are attributed to the Francken workshop were in fact done by Hans III Jordaens. Confirmed paintings by him are few and far between; he is known to have painted the subject of the crossing of the Red Sea several times, as well as a few collector’s cabinets. He also probably painted the figures in several works for landscape painters Abraham Govaerts – several of whose works he finished after his death – and Joos de Momper.

The present painting depicts the Israelites who, having just crossed the Red Sea, witness the utter destruction of Pharaoh’s army, which is engulfed by the water in the background. The hustle and bustle of the colorful multitude of figures crowding the picture makes for a varied and very pleasing whole. The composition is very nicely balanced; with the atmospherically charged dark skies providing a stark contrast to the bright mass of people below, the whole reminds one of certain Japanese prints. Jordaens used very fine oil glazes in the present painting, especially for the figures in the background, which thankfully have not vanished due to overcleaning, as is unfortunately often the case with his works.

Artist: Hans III Jordaens (Antwerp? ca. 1595 - 1643)
Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: 53 x 76 cm
Stamped: with the panel maker's signature 'IC'