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Exhibition: Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens... 17th century Flemish master painters from the Hermitage Museum collections

Barcelona, 8 October 2003

Showing the work of Rubens and his contemporaries within the context of one of art history’s most brilliant periods, Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens… 17th century Flemish master painters from the Hermitage Museum collections, produced by ”la Caixa” Foundation features a breathtaking selection of 49 oil paintings by 28 Flemish master painters on exhibit at CaixaForum. All of the works belong to the Hermitage Museum (Saint Petersburg), which holds one of the world’s foremost 17th and 18th Flemish painting collections, a manifestation of the erstwhile Russian royal family’s art-collecting passion. Among the most notable paintings are The Union of Earth and Water (1618), by Peter Paul Rubens, considered one of the crowning works of the Baroque. Represented alongside Rubens are Anthony Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, Frans Snyders, David Teniers the Younger, Andraen Brouwer, Jacob van der Lamen and Jan Fyt, in addition to others. The exhibit does not only feature these artists’ most preeminent paintings, but also other works in which they appear, like the self-portraits of Van Dyck and Jordaens, a portrait of Rubens and an image of David Teniers the Younger (it is believed that he portrayed himself as the falconer in his renowned The Kitchen). The works are classified into six thematic areas that reflect some of the period’s most significant genres and artistic schools.

The exhibit Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens… 17th century Flemish master painters from the Hermitage Museum collections, curated by Natalia Gritsay, can be visited at CaixaForum (avenida del Marquès de Comillas, 6-8), from 9 October, 2003 to 1 February, 2004.

The 17th and 18th century Flemish painting collection of the Hermitage is one of the Museum’s most priceless treasures. It contains over 500 works, and is among the most prominent in the world, as it features a broad, diverse overlook of the period that witnessed Flemish painting’s ascent, as well as all the artistic genres and schools of the period. The main objective of the Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens… 17th century Flemish master painters from the Hermitage Museum collections is to show the richness and variety of this collection through its most relevant works, from which 49 17th century oil paintings have been taken. The bulk of the selection belongs to the Museum’s original core collection (especially the works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, Snyders and Teniers), which was begun over 200 years ago, during the reign of Empress Catherine II (1762-1796). The exhibition is divided into the following six thematic areas.

Rubens’ ‘cabinet’ sketches and paintings

This area features sketches and paintings from Rubens’ ‘cabinet’ works that demonstrate his virtuosity and boundless imagination. These works are from among the Hermitage Museum’s most valuable Rubens material. They tended to decorate 17th century collectors’ “cabinets” – their private collections of curios, which included works of art. Rubens’ cabinet sketches and paintings met with great success, and were always in high demand among Antwerp collectors, as these experts appreciated the Flemish artist’s inimitable mastery.

Religious, historical and allegorical compositions

The monumental decorative work The Union of Earth and Water (1618), one of Rubens’ major works, is the exhibit’s flagship painting. Based on images taken from ancient mythology, it is a living testimony of the artist’s love for classic cultures, which he admired and knew in depth. In fact, the main school of 17th century Flemish painting was developed within the realm of monumental decorative art, given that the majority of the works created by Flemish painters were meant to adorn large spaces in civil and religious buildings. The church, court aristocracy and wealthy bourgeoisie made up most of the clientele, and tended to commission works of a historical, religious or allegorical nature. Rubens created this school, and turned his painting into an art of major shapes and themes. What’s more, this area also features the work of Jacob Jordaens (Cleopatra’s Feast, 1653), Anthony Van Dyck (Christ Appearing to the Apostles, c. 1620), Jacob Van Oost the Elder (David With the Head of Goliath, 1643), Theodoor van Thulden (Time Reveals the Truth, 1657) and Nicolaes van Veerendael.


The Hermitage Museum possesses a magnificent collection of 17th century Flemish portraits. This genre, considered one of the period’s most significant, is represented in the exhibit through works by the most prominent masters. All of the portraits belong to the Rubens era, the most brilliant, fruitful period for this type of painting in 17th century Flemish art. Nine of the Hermitage’s best Van Dyck portraits are on display at CaixaForum. They reflect this artist’s virtuosity as a portrait painter, in addition to his skill in using various methods of expression, a broad array of techniques and numerous schemes of composition. This section also features works by Rubens, Jordaens, Frans Pourbus the Younger and Cornelis de Vos, in addition to a portrait of Rubens with His Son Albert (c. 1615) from the Rubens School.


The landscapes included in the CaixaForum exhibit are from painters of the Antwerp school, and were painted between the end of the decade beginning in 1610 up to the mid 1660’s. Among them are Rubens’ contemporaries, who developed the traditions of early Flemish landscape painting (Joos de Momper and Jacob van der Lamen), as well as those painters who worked directly with Rubens (Jan Wildens) or were influenced by his art (Lucas van Uden). Also represented is the work of Jan Siberechts, a landscape artist who holds a special place among these painters, as he is unclassifiable within the historical canons of 17th century Flemish landscape painting.

Paintings of animals and still lifes

Large-sized paintings of animals and still lifes were deeply appreciated among the 17th century Flemish aristocracy and wealthy bourgeoisie. Frans Snyders and his brother-in-law, Paul de Vos, were its key exponents. The animal genre is represented by one painting, Concert of Birds (1630-1640), in which Snyders portrayed the world of birds in forests, fields and marshes with the accuracy of an ornithological atlas. Further, this section offers the still lifes and flower paintings of such artists as Jan Fyt, Adriaen van Utrecht, Daniel Seghers and Sebastiaen Bonnecroy.

Adrian Brouwer and David Teniers the Younger. Genre painting

Adrian Brouwer (1605/06-1638) and David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690), pre-eminent 17th century Flemish painters, won great acclaim as landscapists and masters of brilliant imagination and limitless creativity with their paintings of scenes taken from peasants’ daily lives, reflecting the endless possibilities that could be derived from such themes. The exhibit features some of the best genre paintings by these two artists in the Hermitage Museum collection.

Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens… 17th century Flemish master painters from the Hermitage Museum collections
9 October, 2003 to 1 February, 2004

Av. Marquès de Comillas, 6-8
08038 Barcelona

Tuesday to Sunday and holidays, 10 am to 8 pm
Mondays closed, except holidays

Free admission


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