Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678)
Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678)

The Satyr and the Peasant

Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678)
The Satyr and the Peasant
signed 'JOR' (lower left, on the foot warmer)
oil on canvas
53 ¼ x 54 ¼ in. (135.2 x 137.7 cm.)
Ridder Fernand de Wouters d'Oplinter (1868–1942), Brussels, and by descent in the family to
[The Property of a Lady]; Sotheby's, London, 8 December 2005, lot 228, as 'Workshop of Jacob Jordaens', where acquired by a private collector, and by whom sold
[The Property of a Private Collector]; Sotheby's, London, 10 December 2015, lot 119, as 'Workshop of Jacob Jordaens', where acquired by the present owner.
M. Rooses, Jacob Jordaens: His Life and Work, London and New York, 1908, pp. 22-23, as jointly by the artist and his studio.
L. van Puyvelde, Jordaens, Paris and Brussels 1953, p. 96, as a replica of the Kassel painting.
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Tentoonstelling Jacob Jordaens, 27 July-15 October 1905, no. 57, with incorrect dimensions.
Brussels, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Exposition d'œuvres de Jordaens et de son atelier, 27 October-12 November 1928, no. 75.

Lot Essay

Jacob Jordaens depicted this subject on a number of occasions throughout his career. Recounted in Aesop’s Fables, the story describes a satyr or faun who came across a traveler making his way through the forest in winter and invited him home. In an effort to warm himself, the man blew on his fingers. When the satyr asked why he did so, the man responded that it was a means of warming his hands because of the cold. The two then sat down for a meal and the satyr watched as the man raised small portions to his mouth, blowing on them. Again, the satyr asked him why he did so, and the man replied that it cooled the meal. Astounded, the satyr replied ‘I give up on your friendship, because you blow hot and cold with the same mouth’ – the source for the popular expression ‘to blow hot and cold’.
There has been some debate as to which of Jordaens’ depictions of this theme is the earliest. In his seminal 1968-1969 exhibition on Jordaens, Michael Jaffé suggested that the small upright version in Glasgow, which he dated to circa 1616, was ‘apparently the earliest treatment in painting of a favourite theme of Jordaens’ (see M. Jaffé, Jacob Jordaens, 1593-1678, exhibition catalogue, Ottawa, 1968-1969, p. 72, no. 6). More recently, Roger-Adolf d’Hulst proposed that the painting in the Staatliche Gemäldegalerie, Kassel, which he dated to circa 1620, was perhaps the first, with the examples in Göteborg and Brussels coming shortly thereafter (see R-A d’Hulst, Jacob Jordaens, Ithaca, 1982, p. 97). The present example, which was probably painted circa 1650, comes closest to the exceptional, early version in Kassel, the notable differences being the indoor setting of our painting and slight changes to the number and distribution of figures and objects.
Max Rooses was the first scholar to publish this work, describing it as ‘too good to be made by a pupil alone…which most likely came into existence through collaboration of master and pupil’ (loc. cit.). Subsequent commentators in the first half of the twentieth century slightly revised Rooses opinion, suggesting instead that the painting was an entirely autograph work, and included it as such in important monographic exhibitions on Jordaens in Antwerp (1905) and Brussels (1928). While Leo van Puyvelde again downgraded it at mid-century, citing it as a replica of the Kassel painting (loc. cit.), a recent cleaning has confirmed the painting's autograph status. Not only did it reveal the remarkable freedom of Jordaens’ brush, no fewer than nineteen pentimenti – including a notable adjustment to the satyr’s leg – and the artist’s signature also came to light. A similar signature is found on a number of other paintings, including Jordaens’ masterful The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausicaa of the mid-1630s (sold Christie’s, London, 4 December 2012, lot 18).

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