Monday , 22 June 2015
Rubenianum Antwerp

Organized in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Rubens in private’ held at the Rubens House, this symposium aims to contextualize Rubens’s family portraits. The first two speakers will discuss and present research carried out for the exhibition. Two subsequent talks will address the differing character of family portraiture in the Northern and Southern Netherlands. The afternoon session will start with two presentations on the remarkable family portraits painted by Jacob Jordaens. Two final talks will look at the influence of Flemish painting on family portraiture further afield. The day will conclude with a  visit to the exhibition in the Rubens House.




Monday, 22 June 2015


Registration and coffee


Morning session

Chair Arnout Balis, Centrum Rubenianum


Welcome by



Véronique Van de Kerckhof

director of the Rubenianum


From the Heart. Rubens’s Portraits of His Family Members and His Contribution to Seventeenth-Century Portraiture

Although Rubens’s earliest known and dated work is probably a small portrait on copper (Portrait of a Man, Possibly an Architect or Geographer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), he never developed a particular fondness for the genre of portraiture. 

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In accordance with the art-theoretical notions of the time, he may well have considered portraiture an inferior art form, requiring little invenzione or imagination. Nevertheless, throughout his prolific career, Rubens painted dozens of portraits for influential patrons, which obliged him to tread a fine line between the expectations of his clients, most of whom undoubtedly had clear-cut ideas about how they wished to be immortalized, and his own artistic motives. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that his most remarkable and enduring achievements in this genre are portraits of family members and loved ones. Because these works were never intended for public display, they are freer and often more daring than the likenesses of his official clientele. Focusing on his family portraits, this paper aims to take a fresh look at Rubens the portraitist, re-examining his unique portrait style and reconsidering his portraits in the context of seventeenth-century portraiture. 

Ben van Beneden

The Rubens House Antwerp

Ben van Beneden studied art sciences at the Catholic University of Leuven. He began his career at the Antwerp municipal museums and subsequently worked in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and The Rubens House in Antwerp. 

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Since 2010, he is the director of The Rubens House. Ben van Beneden has collaborated on numerous international exhibitions of 17th-century art, including ‘Jacob Jordaens’ and ‘Antoon van Dyck 1599-1641’ (both in The Royal Museum of Fine Arts), ‘Room for art in 17th-century Antwerp’ (The Rubens House and Mauritshuis), ‘Palazzo Rubens. The master as architect’ and recently ‘Rubens in private. The master portrays his familiy’ (both in The Rubens House). His research concentrates primarily on the relationship between intellectual culture and art, and on the reception of ancient and Italian art in the Netherlands. He is currently preparing an exhibitions on Rubens as a designer.


Not in Front of the Servants? Domestic Staff in Flemish Family Portraits

Rather than focusing on the protagonists seen in Flemish family portraits, I will turn the spotlight on domestic servants who occasionally make an unsolicited appearance in these portraits, most often in the background or margins of the composition.

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Taking the staff of eight employed in Rubens’ household at the time of his death as a starting point, this talk will discuss the reasons for servants’ inclusion or exclusion in family portraits and it will explore the conditions which led to their being portrayed along with their masters and mistresses. Are maids and footmen simply propping up the status of a portrayed family or do they in fact belong to the concept itself of an early modern family? If so, how close were relations with their employers? By reading family portraits that include servants against a backdrop of wills, inventories and other seventeenth-century written sources, I hope to tentatively answer some of these questions.

Bert Watteeuw

Rubenianum Antwerp

Bert Watteeuw is curator of research collections at the Antwerp Rubenianum since 2011.

He studied Art History and Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) and is completing a dissertation titled Capita Selecta. Perspectives on the Culture of Portraiture in Early Modern Flanders. 




Representation versus Artistry? Family Portraits of Artists in the Southern and Northern Netherlands

“Comparing the portraits of artists’ families in the Southern and Northern Netherlands, significant differences attract attention. In the Southern Netherlands most of the portraits come from a single place, Antwerp, where artists had an eminently respectable status. Although Pieter Paul Rubens’ teacher Otto van Veen presented himself in 1584 surrounded by his numerous relatives sitting beside an easel, in the family portraits of Rubens, Cornelis de Vos or Jacob Jordaens nothing alludes to their profession.  

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They show themselves instead with considerable luxuriousness. Hence these paintings can serve as models for non-artist-clients. Anthonis van Dyck’s family-portrait fom 1616/17 (Larsen n° 84) for example is obviously inspired by Rubens’ “Family of Jan Brueghel” and Jordaens’ family-portrait in St. Petersburg. Another example is the Portrait of the familiy of Balthasar Gerbier from the workshop of Rubens, which generated a wide succession.

In the Northern Netherlands artists’ family-portraits are not restricted to a definite place or group. Furthermore the artists show themselves with palette, brush and maulstick. Herman van Vollenhoven, Jacob Willemsz Delf or Gerrit van Honthorst take advantage to comment on the relation between reality, picture and image. On the other hand artists let their families stage different parts like Jan de Bray, who shows his parents in the role of Antonius and Cleopatra.

In my paper I want to show on the one hand in detail the different ways to carry out the task of family-portraiture in the Southern and Northern Netherland. On the other hand I ask if it is possible to draw conclusions from this, concerning the different artistic self-concepts.”

Sylvaine Hänsel

Independent Scholar

Sylvaine Hänsel studied art history, history and Spanish literature in Berlin and Hamburg. She completed her studies in 1987 with a thesis titled “The Spanish Humanist Benito Arias Montano and the Arts”.

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After two years at the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig, she changed to Berlin where she teaches as assistant lecturer at the Technical University, and afterwards at the Potsdam University. Actually she lives in Münster (Westfalia) and is visiting lecturer at the “Munster School of Architecture”. She is also editor of the Journal “Mitteilungen der Carl-Justi-Vereinigung”, specialized in the Art of the Iberian Peninsula. Her investigations concern Spanish art, architecture of the 20th century and portrait-painting. In this field of research she published among others several articles about Netherlandish family-portraits.


‘Fountain and Origin of the Republic’: Jan Steen’s (1626/27-1679) Own Dissolute Household

This paper focuses on the ways in which families have defined themselves visually by the morals and virtues expressed in the domestic advice manuals and moralistic writings that were woven into the fabric of seventeenth-century Dutch life and culture. I examine a number of portraits that depict the sitters in traditional, idealized roles, in order to explore how families were expected to instruct their children morally, socially, and academically.

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This raises the question of just how accurate these portrayals were, a notion that quickly deflates when we consider the ‘dissolute households’ of Jan Steen. His genre-portraits turned these idealized and rather unrealistic homes of so many family portraits into farce, highlighting the highly constructed, illusory nature of such images and thus the pressure that families were under to identify with such high, moral standards. His ‘dissolute households’ make comical reference to the pious and decent behavior seen in many family portraits. Steen, an artist with a large family of his own, often used his own family members as the models in these works. Biographers have long confused Steen’s way of life with behavior in his paintings. However, it can be argued that Steen deliberately encouraged this confusion, especially because he typically played the role of the ‘fool’ in his topsy-turvy household scenes. The fool is a character who speaks the truth, thus Steen takes the air out of idyllic family portraits and shows us something a bit closer to reality; something that I argue can only be shown by the artist who portrays his own family. 

Kerry Bourbié

Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Kerry Bourbié earned her D.Phil. in History of Art from the University of Oxford in 2014, with the thesis ‘The Family Picture: A Study of Identity Construction in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Portraits.’ 

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She has recently published her research in the interdisciplinary volume, Facts and Feelings: Retracing Emotions of Artists, 1600-1800 (Brepols, 2015). Currently, she is employed as a Library Assistant in the Hirsch Library at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 


Lunch break


Afternoon session

Chair: Katlijne Van der Stighelen, KU Leuven


Visualizing Family Ties. Jordaens’ Portrait with the Family of his Father-in-Law Adam van Noort

Three Family Portraits by Jordaens might provide us with interesting insights into the artist’s life and working situation. These paintings are showing different parts (and maybe concepts) of the artist’s family.

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The first one might be the painting today in St. Petersburg showing Jordaens as member of his family with his parents and siblings. It can be connected with the acceptance of the artist into the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1615. Slightly later is the painting now in Kassel. It shows Jordaens with the family of his master and father-in-law Adam van Noort. It is generally believed to be related with Jordaens’ wedding in 1616 with van Noort’s daughter Catherina. But can this be the only reason for the painting? Why are Jordaens parents-in-law integrated and why does he not show himself as a painter? The third portrait today in Madrid shows Jordaens with his own family and a servant. Thus we cannot only see three different parts of the familiy but maybe also three different concepts of familitas. In the portrait in Kassel it seems that Jordaens also reflects his artistic relationship with van Noort as comparison with works by him will show.

Justus Lange

Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel

Justus Lange has studied History of Art, Classical Archeology and Spanish Philology at the Universities of Würzburg and Salamanca. PhD 2001 with a thesis on the early work of Jusepe de Ribera. 

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2001–2004 Assistant curator at the Old Masters Gallery, Staatliche Museen Kassel

2004–2009 Curator of the Collection of Paintings, Prints and Drawings and Sculpture at the Städtisches Museums Braunschweig

Since 2009 Chief Curator Old Masters Gallery, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, since 2013 Head of Collections at the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel


Intimacy, Realism and Status: a Previously Unknown Jordaens Family Portrait

Jordaens integrated family members into his compositions more frequently than his contemporaries, including Rubens and Van Dyck. One of the most famous examples is the image of his father-in-law, Adam Van Noort, as the King in the bucolic and merry paintings The King Drinks.

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This portrayal gives the paintings a sense of intimacy and realism, which has long been regarded as the master’s innovative venture into blurring the borderlines between genre painting and portraiture.

Jordaens also painted straightforward and touching portraits of his family, which can be found in Saint Petersburg (with his parents, brothers and sisters), Kassel (with his fiancée, future parents in law and her family) and, last not but not least in the Prado (his own family with maid). These paintings receive more favourable opinion and attention than his portraits on command, which are often considered to be inferior to those of Rubens and Van Dyck.

This paper examines a previously unknown and much later family portrait by Jordaens. The painting, in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, seems to combine the merriment of the genre scenes with a straightforward family portrait. It is currently called an Allegorical Family Portrait and has been coined as a betrothal scene.

The paper will propose an identification of the later members of Jordaens’ family portrayed in the Hermitage painting. In turn, it will throw new light on the fate of Jordaens’ family portraits and the consequences for his posthumous fame and reputation.


Joost Vander Auwera

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Joost Vander Auwera obtained an MBA at the Vlerick Management School, and an MA and PhD in Art History from Ghent University with a master thesis on Sebastiaen Vrancx and a dissertation on Abraham Janssen.

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He joined the staff of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium as a curator in 1992 and is now Section Head a.i. for Old Master Sculpture and Drawings.

His research interests focus on seventeenth century Flemish painting, a domain on which he published widely. Vander Auwera has co-curated major exhibitions on Rubens and Jordaens. He is currently preparing an exhibition on Flemish Caravaggism, to be held at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (2018-2019).




‘Curiously Painted, Drawn, and Understood’: Adriaan Hanneman’s Portrait of Cornelius Johnson and his Wife and Son

Cornelius Johnson [Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen] (1593-1661) was born in London into a Flemish/German migrant family, but trained (at least partly) in the northern Netherlands. In 1632 he was appointed a 'picture-drawer' to King Charles I.

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The Dutch painter Adriaan Hanneman (1604-1671) worked in London from about 1626 to about 1638, probably spending time in Anthony van Dyck’s studio in Blackfriars. In about 1637, Hanneman painted a remarkable portrait of Johnson with his wife and son (Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede). By the early 18th century, the painting belonged to Johnson’s great-nephew, who told the engraver George Vertue that Hanneman had unsuccessfully courted Johnson’s ‘neice or near relation’ and had painted this picture ‘to pleasure’ Johnson.

In this family portrait, Johnson appears plump and prosperous, while his son (also called Cornelius, and later to be a portraitist in the United Provinces) is depicted like a little gentleman, attired like the elite children that Johnson himself portrayed. Such a comparatively sumptuous representation of a family of middling rank was rare in Britain at that period. Contemporary viewers would have seen in it allusions to the work of Johnson's Blackfriars neighbour, van Dyck, but also distinct differences. This paper will use this little-known painting to examine the interconnected careers, practices and contexts of artists of Netherlandish origin who worked in London in the run-up to the Civil War.

Karen Hearn

University College London

Karen Hearn FSA was the Curator of 16th & 17th Century British Art at Tate Britain from 1992 to 2012. She is now an Honorary Professor at University College London.

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In 1995, she curated the Tate exhibition Dynasties: Painting in Tudor & Jacobean England 1530-1630, for which she received a European Woman of Achievement Award. She also curated the Van Dyck & Britain (2009) and Rubens & Britain (2011-12) shows, both at Tate Britain. Her 2002 Tate exhibition Marcus Gheeraerts II: Elizabethan Artist established the theme of the ‘pregnancy portrait’, which will now be the subject of her forthcoming book (Tate Publishing).

The co-editor of Lady Anne Clifford: Culture, Patronage & Gender in 17th Century Britain, Leeds (2009), Karen Hearn’s other publications include: ‘The full-length portrait in early 17th-century Britain’, in The Suffolk Collection, Laura Houliston (ed.), Swindon (2012); ‘Lely and Holland’, in Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, Courtauld Gallery exhibition catalogue (2012); and '"Picture-drawer, born at Antwerp": Migrant Artists in Jacobean London', in Painting in Britain 1500-1630, British Academy / National Portrait Gallery, forthcoming 2015.

Karen Hearn’s work focuses on art made in Britain between 1500 and 1710, and on British-Netherlandish cultural links during that period. Her small exhibition on the 17th-century portrait-painter Cornelius Johnson will run from 15 April to 13 September 2015 at the National Portrait Gallery in London; it is accompanied by a 72-page book, Cornelius Johnson (Paul Holberton Publishing).


A ‘Modern’ Artist Couple Portrayed: Juriaan Pool and Rachel Ruysch in 1716

Portrait painter Juriaan Pool (1666-1745) painted a family portrait of himself, his wife the still-life painter Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750) and their youngest son Jan Willem. The famous Ruysch is shown pontifically with a bouquet of flowers as attribute. The lesser-known portrait painter Juriaan Pool, stands behind her presenting one of her still-lifes on an easel.

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The artist couple married in 1693 and got 11 children. Ruysch kept on working as a beloved still-life painter, Pool painted substantially less – primarily portraits of colleagues of his father-in-law, the physician Frederik Ruysch.

This family portrait was commissioned by Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine, the patron of Ruysch. Pool and Ruysch seem to have been on friendly terms with the Elector. They named their son after him and at the baptism the Elector and his wife were present. For this occasion the newly baptized was honoured with a medal of Johan Wilhelms portrait, the one the young Jan Willem is showing on Pools portrait. When the painting was ready for shipment to Düsseldorf in 1716, the news of the Electors death reached Amsterdam, so the portrait stayed property of the family. Biographer Johan van Gool saw this painting during his visit to the widow Ruysch, shortly before her death in 1750. From both oeuvres of Pool and Ruysch, only this portrait and six of Ruyschs still-lifes were left.

The modern relationships – Ruysch as breadwinner and in this case also as link to the commissioner – become clear from the composition and the iconography of this family portrait. It is a tribute to still-life painter Rachel Ruysch, by her husband, commissioned by her patron the Elector. 

Anna Koldeweij

Radboud University Nijmegen

Anna Koldeweij (1989) studied Art History at the Radboud University Nijmegen. She completed her studies cum laude in 2012 with a master thesis on the Amsterdam portrait painter Juriaan Pool.

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At the moment she reworks this thesis for publication (design already in early stages, thanks to the course ‘type design’, Plantin Institute for Typography in Antwerp, lecturers: Antoon De Vylder and Paul Verrept). Recently an extensive article about Juriaan Pool Sr (c. 1618-1669) – the father of the portrait painter – was published (Jaarboek voor Munt- en Penningkunde 101 (2014), pp. 52-120). In addition, since her graduation she works on various projects in museums and she is doing research in the fields of painting and applied arts, namely silver, from the Dutch Golden Age, from which several publications have developed.


Questions and discussion


Guided tour of the exhibition ‘Rubens in Private. The master portrays his family’


All lectures are in English.
The Rubenianum is located at walking distance from Antwerp Central Station.

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Kolveniersstraat 20
2000 Antwerpen (Belgium)


Registration is mandatory and open until 18 June.

Registration fee includes: coffee, refreshments breaks, lunch and visit to the exhibition ‘Rubens in Private. The master portrays his family’.


Full price: € 40

Student (with valid student card only): € 20


  • Via bank transfer to account number (IBAN) BE42 4097 5857 0154, BIC (SWIFT) code KREDBEBB of Museums and Heritage Antwerp, quoting: “Likeness and Kinship + name & first name”.
  • Cash payment during registration on 22 June.

Registration is final once your fee has been paid.