Unprecedented discovery of an artwork by Baroque Master Jacques Jordaens at Saint-Gilles’ City Hall in Brussels

Published on 08.12.2020

An artwork of the utmost importance by Antwerp Baroque Master Jacques Jordaens (1593-1678) has been discovered at the Saint-Gilles City Hall in Brussels. This unprecedented discovery by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) has come to light during an inventory commissioned by urban.brussels in 2019.

The artwork, which had been considered a mere copy, had remained undisturbed in the Town Planning and Development Counselor’s office for about 60 years. The precious wood panel has now been authenticated as the oldest known version of a composition of the « Holy Family », which Jordaens reiterated in three other panels conserved at the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of New York, Saint-Petersburg’s Hermitage, and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.

A fruitful year of scientific research later, with the combined expertise and collaboration of the KIK-IRPA, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and the international experts from the Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project, the artwork has been credited without a doubt to Jacques Jordaens and dated around 1617-1618.

A detailed analysis even revealed that the wood of the Jordaens panel comes from the same tree that was used in several compositions by Anthony Van Dyck, another Baroque Master. This finding strengthens the existing hypothesis that as young artists, Jordaens and Van Dyck were both active in Rubens’ studio.

The 400-year-old "Holy Family" discovered in Saint-Gilles will benefit, within the KIK-IRPA, from a one-year restoration campaign financed by urban.brussels. The yellowed varnishes and darkened touch-ups will be removed, while the backside of the panel will be treated to avoid new cracks in the wood or loss of paint. In addition to the restoration, complementary analyses will be carried out to further develop the knowledge of the working method and painting technique of the young Jordaens. This restoration will ensure the lasting conservation of this masterpiece for future generations.

At the end of 2021, the artwork will be shown to the public with all its original brilliance and vibrant colors at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. There it will find its place within one of the largest Jacques Jordaens collections worldwide.


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