Christmas comes early: a new masterpiece at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium!

Published on 22.12.2022

[Brussels, 22 December 2022]

The Holy Family, an authentic and rare work of Jacques Jordaens youth period, discovered in the town hall of Saint-Gilles (Brussels), unveiled in the museum after more than a year of restoration.

This important work by the Antwerp Baroque master Jacques Jordaens (1593-1678) was brought to light during the inventory of the Saint-Gilles collection carried out by and IRPA in 2019. It was formally identified in 2020.  Today, the work has finally been restored to its original brilliance, colour and style and is now on display in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.



The artwork, which had been lying dormant in the cabinet of the alderman for urban planning for almost 60 years, was long considered to be a mere copy. However, the precious painted panel has been authenticated.

It is the oldest known version of a composition of The Holy Family, which Jordaens reused in three other paintings in the prestigious Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. 

It was the scientific collaboration between IRPA, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB) and the international experts of the Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project that made it possible, after more than a year of in-depth research, to attribute this work with certainty to Jacques Jordaens, around 1617-1618.


The Holy Family, which is more than 400 years old, has benefited from an extensive restoration campaign at IRPA, financed by, as part of its new competences in the field of movable heritage.

The analyses carried out by IRPA's multidisciplinary research team revealed that the work had already been restored many times in the past, in a crude and clumsy manner. Having arrived at IRPA in a poor state, the restored Holy Family now provides a unique and detailed record of the painter's palette. This restoration guarantees the lasting preservation of this masterpiece for future generations.


The work of the commune of Saint-Gilles is now on loan at the Royal Museums. By joining its collection, the Holy Family will now be presented to the public in good conservation conditions. From 22 December 2022, the public will be able to rediscover the original work, as it was created by the Master, in the permanent collection of the Old Masters Museum, in the room devoted to Jacques Jordaens, alongside the famous painting The King Drinks and another Holy Family illustrating another stylistic approach of the young master who was evolving at great speed. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium house one of the most important collections of Jacques Jordaens in the world.


Discover the history, the discovery, the study and the restoration of this atypical work!