• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7448

    Old Master and British Pictures

    7 December 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 120

    Studio of Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678)

    The King Drinks

    Price Realised  


    Studio of Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678)
    The King Drinks
    oil on canvas
    61½ x 86 in. (156.2 x 218.5 cm.)

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    This lively picture presents a typical Flemish household celebrating the feast of Epiphany (6 January) with a traditional feast. A 'king' would be chosen at random - either by drawing lots or by finding a bean hidden in the cake - and crowned with a paper coronet. The king would then be given the privilege of appointing the other officials of his court: the queen, counsellor, cupbearer, carver, musician, jester, physician and others, depending on the size of the company. Because such a scene envolves merry figures playing at courtly life, the subject gave Jordaens the opportunity to explore several of his favourite modes of painting all at once: the history painting, the genre scene and the character study.

    The King Drinks was one of Jordaens's most popular subjects, he returned to it several times in his lifetime. The present picture is based on an original now in the Staatliche Museen at Kassel. Painted in circa 1640, the Kassel canvas was extended on its left side around 1650-60. As the present picture does not reflect the extension, it seems that it was probably painted from Jordaens's original composition before the extension was made.

    By the turn of the twentieth century, this picture belonged to the great Belgian entrepreneur Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain (1852-1929), whose companies developed several French railway lines, including the Paris Métro.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, and by descent to the present owner.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the correct provenace should read:
    Acquired before 1914 by Baron Francois Empain,
    and by descent to the present owner.


    Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Exposition d'oeuvres de Jordaens et de son atelier, 27 October-12 November 1928, p. 50, no. 93 (on loan from Baron Empain).