Jan van den Hoecke

The Meeting of David and Abigail

Jan van den Hoecke was born in Antwerp in 1611. After a stint as an apprentice to his father, the Antwerp painter Gaspar van den Hoecke (1595 – 1648), for some time, he entered the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens in 1630. Van den Hoecke was greatly influenced stylistically by the baroque master, as is evidenced by the fact that many of his works were once attributed to Rubens (the present work being no exception). Alongside his father, van den Hoecke worked on the decorations for the Joyous Entry of Cardinal-Infant Ferdinand in Antwerp, which were overseen by Rubens.

He then travelled to Italy, where he would remain until 1644. Here he familiarized himself with the work of Guido Reni and took time to study the antique; both developments contributed to the classicizing trends in his later work. In 1644 van den Hoecke joined an illustrious Roman artists’ club called the Virtuosi al Pantheon. Shortly afterwards, he moved to Vienna, where he entered the service of Emperor Ferdinand III. In 1647 he returned to his native Antwerp, where he became the court painter to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, Governor of the Southern Netherlands, whom he had met before in Vienna. Not surprisingly, several of his works can still be admired at the Kunsthistorisches Museum today.

Van den Hoecke painted portraits as well as historical paintings and he also produced the designs for several series of tapestries. Stylistically, he remained indebted to Rubens’ baroque style, which he later infused with elements of seventeenth-century Italian classicism. Our painting is a fine example of this: while it is so close to Rubens’ style that it was still considered a work by Rubens when it was sold at auction in 1970, the nascent classicism in the execution is undeniable. The work echoes Rubens’ treatment of the same subject (now at the Getty Museum), but remains a wholly independent composition and an original invention by Jan van den Hoecke. Although it was thought at some point to have been a modello for a tapestry, research has shown it to be a preparatory sketch for a large-scale work once owned by (and made for) the Antwerp-born painter Justus Sustermans (it is now in the Uffizi Museum, Florence).

The scene depicted here is the meeting of David and Abigail. Nabal of Carmel, Abigail’s husband, refused to pay for the protection that David had provided to his shepherds. Upon hearing this, David set off with his troops to exact his revenge on Nabal. Abigail, seeking forgiveness for her husband, met with David secretly, offering him bread, wine and other provisions. Upon seeing her beauty, David dismounted from his horse and raised Abigail up. When she returned to her husband and explained what a disaster she had narrowly managed to avoid, the latter died on the spot from a stroke. Soon afterward, David took Abigail as his wife.



Artist: Jan van den Hoecke (Antwerp 1611 - 1651)
Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: 36,5 x 54,5 cm
Frame: in an ornate carved and gilded wooden frame