Jacob Jordaens

Bean King

Bean King
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Jacob Jordaens
Genre Painting, Painting, Oil on canvas, 157x211 cm
Origin: Flanders, Circa 1638

Learned in the traditions and legends of the ordinary people, Jordaens here depicted the festival of the Three Magi or Three Kings, which was celebrated in Flanders every year on 6th January. According to old Netherlandish tradition, on this day a large pie was served at table with a single bean hidden somewhere in it. He who found the bean in his slice of pie was declared to be the Bean King. The bean symbolised the guiding star which led the Magi to Bethlehem to worship the Christ Child, and also the appearance of Christ himself. According to the rules of the festival, the Bean King chose for himself a "queen" and appointed a "suite": an adviser, a treasurer, a chamberlain, a musician, a cook and a jester. The participants in the feast were obliged to submit to the royal pair in everything and even imitate them, and when the Bean King lifted to his lips yet another glass of wine they had to shout "The King drinks!" in chorus. In depicting the culmination of the bacchanalia, Jordaens manages to convey the atmosphere of uncontrolled emotion and hilarity, giving each character expressive gestures and facial features. In his interpretation, the everyday scene takes on a truly monumental character and can be read as an affirmation of life. The dynamic composition, the exaggerated volume of the forms, the warm golden-brown colouring and the broad painterly style mark out Jordaens as a follower of Rubens and one of the leading masters of the Flemish Baroque.

Style: Baroque
Source of entry: Museum of the Academy of Arts, Petrograd, 1922
Exibition: Flemish Art: 17th century

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