Frans Francken II (Antwerp 1581-1642), Abraham Govaerts (Antwerp 1589-1626) and Hans Jordaens III (Antwerp c. 1595-1643)
Property from a European Private Collection
Frans Francken II (Antwerp 1581-1642), Abraham Govaerts (Antwerp 1589-1626) and Hans Jordaens III (Antwerp c. 1595-1643)

The meeting of Jacob and Joseph

Frans Francken II (Antwerp 1581-1642), Abraham Govaerts (Antwerp 1589-1626) and Hans Jordaens III (Antwerp c. 1595-1643)
The meeting of Jacob and Joseph
signed 'D.o. FFRANCK• IN• et f.' ('FF' in ligature, lower right, on the shield)
oil on panel, with the original gessoed reverse
36 ¾ x 48 ¼ in. (93.4 x 122.5 cm.)
with an unidentified early collector’s monogram, ‘PSL’ (in ligature, verso, center) and the inventory number ‘Ao A / 269’ (verso, center right)
Mary Charlotte Hunter; Christie’s, London, 29 April 1949, lot 27, as Frans Francken (35 gns. to Legatt).
Dr. E.I. Schapiro, London, by 1953; (†) Christie’s, London, 30 March 1979, lot 15, as Frans Francken the Younger.
with Noortman, London, by 1979.
Private collection, Essen, by 1983.
with Colnaghi-Bernheimer, London, by 2008, from whom acquired by the present owner in 2011.
K. Müllenmeister, Meer und Land im Licht des 17. Jahrhunderts, Bremen, 1981, III, p. 117, fig. 599, as Frans Francken II and 'Jacob and Laban'.
U. Härting, Studien zur Kabinettbildmalerei des Frans Francken II 1581-1642, Zürich, 1983, no. A9, fig. T.IV, n.p., illustrated on front cover.
K. Borms, Abraham Govaerts (1589-1626): Zijn leven en artistieke bedrijvigheid, Leuven, 1988, p. 103.
U. Härting, Frans Francken der Jüngere: die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen, 1989, pp. 133-134, 141, 155 and 229, no. 9, pl. 33.
F. Huygens, 'Alexander Keirincx (1600-1652): Een Antwerps landschapschilder te Amsterdam', MA Thesis, Leuven, 1989, no. 42.
U. Härting and K. Borms, Abraham Govaerts: Der Waldmaler (1589-1626), Wommelgem, 2003, p. 124, no. 104.
London, Noortman, A Selection of Important Paintings by Old and Modern Masters from Our 1980 Collection, 1980, no. 4, as Frans Francken II and Abraham Govaerts.

Lot Essay

Drawn from the book of Genesis, this magnificent painting is a masterpiece by Frans Francken II executed in collaboration with Abraham Govaerts, who furnished the landscape, and Hans Jordaens III, who depicted the figures in the left background. Francken, the only artist to sign this painting, painted the central group of figures in the foreground. Praised by the contemporary poet Cornelis de Bie (1627-circa 1715) for the ‘endless bustle’ of his staffage, Francken's figures brilliantly convey the richly elaborated costumes and variety of postures, gestures and facial expressions for which the artist was so acclaimed. The distant vista at left, screen of foliage at right and brilliant coloring with gentle shading are characteristic of Govaerts’ work and suggest the influence of Jan Breughel I, while the cows with bony hips are characteristic of Jordaens’ approach to these animals. Such collaborations between specialists in different genres were standard practice among Flemish artists in the period. Particularly prized by contemporary collectors, they not only produced a product of higher quality than if one master had undertaken the entire project but offered the knowledgeable connoisseur an opportunity to display his erudition by teasing out the various hands at work on the painting.
The Biblical episode recounts the moment that Jacob is reunited in the Land of Goshen with his son, Joseph, who had previously been sold into slavery by his brothers. Jacob, portrayed with a long white beard, and Joseph, identified by his coat of many colors, heartily embrace each other in the middle foreground. As a means of signifying no lingering ill will, Joseph had sent a carriage from Egypt to Canaan to retrieve his 130-year-old father, sixty-six family members and their flocks. This procession of Israelites, some of whom wear exotic broad-brimmed hats that were associated with Egypt in Francken’s time, arrives from the left background, while Joseph’s entourage — including two pages who lift the train of his ermine-trimmed coat to keep it from dragging on the ground — enter from lower right. Among this central group of figures are three of Joseph’s eleven brothers, who kneel at far left, as well as a figure in a turban directly to the right of the standard bearer who derives from a painting of circa 1609 depicting the sultan Mulay Ahmad by Sir Peter Paul Rubens after a lost portrait by Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen (fig. 1; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). This convergence of figures from the upper left background and lower right foreground culminating in the reuniting of father and son at center lends the composition its sense of dynamic movement.
Such a subject would likely have appealed to Francken’s contemporaries because Joseph was understood to be an exemplar of virtue whose unflappable faith and generosity served as a model for one’s own behavior. Indeed, Francken and his collaborators no doubt intended their audience to draw precisely such a parallel by staging it in a largely contemporary environment. The forest landscape is typical of the local topography and the carriages and much of the clothing would have been equally familiar to a seventeenth-century Flemish viewer.
Though the painting is not dated, Ursula Härting has convincingly proposed a date of circa 1624-1626. Francken and Govaerts appear to have collaborated on more than forty occasions, including the Europa adorning Jupiter in the guise of a Bull (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp) and The Israelites crossing the Red Sea (Kunsthalle, Hamburg), both dated 1621, and A pastoral landscape with shepherds and shepherdesses picnicking (Art market, Vienna) dating to circa 1626 (for a complete listing of their collaborations, see Härting and Borms, op. cit., p. 61). In the first two paintings, the figures are less prominent and well-integrated in the landscape than the present work, while the pastoral subject matter of the third is seldom found in Antwerp until the 1630s, suggesting that it was unlikely to have been produced much before the mid-1620s. These factors, combined with Govaert’s death in 1626 which provides a terminus ante quem for the painting’s production, argue strongly in favor of Härting’s proposed dating.

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