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Jordaens: tt mesterværk bliver til

Jordaens: the making of a masterpiece Exhibition: 8 November 2008 - 1 February 2009

Museum information

This exclusive exhibition of the Baroque painter Jacob Jordaens at Statens Museum for Kunst is the result of a piece of real detective work. The focus of the exhibition is completely original and starts actually under the surface of two of Jordaens’ paintings and traces the artist’s path to the final masterpiece. The working method of the Flemish artist is put into perspective with a selection of other works by him on loan from museums abroad, as well as works by contemporary artists like Rubens.

A face-lift for 400-year-old masterpieces

The exhibition marks the completion of a thirteen-month-long restoration of one of the most important works in the Museum – as well as in Jordaens’ oeuvre: the 279.5 x 467 cm. large painting The Tribute Money: Peter Finding the Silver Coin in the Mouth of the Fish (also called The Ferry Boat to Antwerp) from c. 1623. The thorough restoration has been carried out live in an open workshop. Visitors have been able to follow the small but visible steps day by day; the Museum’s conservators have also told about their work and what surprises lay hidden on and under the surface of the gigantic painting. During the process, the painting was joined by another work by Jordaens which underwent an almost corresponding treatment in the open workshop. This patient, which arrived from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, is a smaller variation of the same theme. Both paintings have now assumed a central position in the present exhibition in practically the same magnificent state as when they left Jordaens’ workshop almost 400 years ago.

Secrets under the surface

An international interdisciplinary collaboration between art historians, conservators and scientists has laid the ground for this research. For example, x-ray photographs and infra-red studies of the paintings have revealed that large parts of the motif in the Rijksmuseum painting are repeated under the visible surface of the large Copenhagen version. This is an unexpected discovery, which completely reverses the chronology of the two versions of The Tribute Money. Chemical investigations of colour layers have definitively rebuffed the suspicion that some of the eight sections of canvas in all in the Copenhagen version may have been added by some other artist than Jordaens. Instead, these revelations give us the picture of an uncompromising artist who made his way doggedly and painstakingly towards perfection.

Jordaens from all sides

The exhibition Jordaens: The Making of a Masterpiece communicates the results of this new research and documents the working process of the artist. It also reveals his ambition to create a new expression by painting stories alive with a rich variety of feelings manifested by physical movement and facial expression. A carefully chosen selection of other paintings by Jordaens also reveals how he worked with a sort of catalogue of facial expressions, bodies and postures, which he repeated and perfected from picture to picture. And last but by no means least, there are a number of works in the exhibition by Jordaens’ contemporary colleagues Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snijders, throwing him into relief as one of the very finest Baroque artists.


Jordaens: the making of a masterpiece
Contributions by Troels Filtenborg, Lars Hendrikman, Badeloch Noldus, Karsten Ohrt, Eva de la Fuente Pedersen, Annefloor Schlotter, Johanna H. Verhave and Jørgen Wadum.
Published on the occasion of an exhibition held in 2008-09 in Copenhagen (Statens Museum for Kunst) and in 2009 in Maastricht (Bonnefantenmuseum)
120 pages
Copenhagen (Statens Museum for Kunst
ISBN-13: 978-97-92023-26-1

The exhibition is accompanied by a large and fully illustrated book which goes even deeper under the surface and lays out the various approaches and results of the most recent research, giving a thorough picture of Jordaens, his works and his time.


The Getty Foundation, Los Angeles, supported the research, restoration and publication
FORCE Technology
Leica Microsystems A/S
Nederman Danmark
Bang & Olufsen

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