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

A jester with a cat

Details
Studio of Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp 1593-1678)
A jester with a cat
oil on canvas
33¼ x 28.3/8 in. (84.5 x 72.1 cm.)

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Lot Essay

In the 1630s, Jacob Jordaens introduced two new themes to his oeuvre, The Twelfth Night (or The King Drinks) and As the Old Sing, so the Young Pipe. Over the course of the next decade and more he repeatedly revisited these subjects that each depicted scenes of domestic merrymaking and revelry. The Twelfth Night referred to the festivities of Epiphany on 6 January, where guests would gather and each be given a role to play around the table, with the choice of these roles usually determined by drawing lots. One person would be nominated King, another the doctor, one the servant and so forth. Key amongst these stock characters was the jester, or sot, charged with keeping the rest of the company entertained throughout. Whilst Jordaens's early compositions featured differently drawn characters, he eventually settled on the physiognomy of the grinning jester, as he appears in this lot. A head study, which was sold at Christie's, Amsterdam, 1 December 1986, lot 46, may be the preparatory drawing for the figure. This laughing jester, sometimes holding a cat as he does here, would feature in a number of the versions of The Twelfth Night and As the Old Sing, so the Young Pipe throughout the 1630s and '40s, including, for example, pictures in the Louvre, the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Jordaens went on to treat the figure of the jester separately, holding the cat in his left arm, and it proved a highly popular composition: the subject was engraved by Alexander Voet in c.1645, bearing the inscription Fatvo ridemvr in vno ('We all laugh through this one fool'). A further variation shows the jester and cat with a woman, both leaning through a window (sold Sotheby's, New York, 28 May 1999, lot 60).

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