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Jan Victors

Joseph brings his Father before Pharaoh

Jan Victors

Signed and dated, lower right: Jan Victors fc. 1652
Oil on canvas, 64¼ x 80¼ ins. (163 x 204 cm)

VP4927


Provenance

John Hope, Amsterdam, 1776
Gerard Godart, Baron Taets van Amerongen
His sale, Vinkeles, Amsterdam, 3 July 1805, no 153
Anon sale, Marivaux, Paris, 10-11 June, 1806, no 43
F. H. Wente
His sale, Paris, Drouot, 22 February 1893, no 59 (as Mordechai before Ahasuerus)
Baron van Ittersum, Amsterdam
His sale, F. Muller, Amsterdam, 14 May 1912, no. 181, illustrated
H. B. van Verloren van Themaat
His sale, Mak, Amsterdam, 12 January 1925, no. 96
Prince Leopold of Prussia
His sale, Lucerne, 23 August 1928, no. 356, illustrated fig. 22
Robert Vinkin, Paris, 1930
Consigned by the above to a sale, Christie’s, London, 31 January 1930, lot 108 (unsold)
Lord Chesham, 1930 (according to Sumowski)
With Guy Stein, Paris, 1932
W. F. J. Laan
His sale, Moos, Geneva, 9 June 1934, no. 150, illustrated fig. 42
Company collection, Switzerland, until 2020 


Literature

E. Jacobsen, ‘Esther, Ahasver und Haman, beim Mahl’, Kunstchronik, no. 13, 1902, p. 358.
A. von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, Vienna and Leipzig, vol. II, 1910, p. 788
K. Lilienfeld, Arent de Gelder, sein Leben und siene Kunst, The Hague, 1914, p. 238, under no. XXII.
G. Isarlo, ‘Rembrandt et son entourage’, La Renaissance, 19, 1936, p. 34, Add. III.
H. van Guldener, ‘Het Jozefverhaal bij Rembrandt en zijn school’, diss., Utrecht and Amsterdam, 1947, p. 62f.
E. Bénézit, Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs, 1955, vol. VIII, p. 566
A. Pigler, Barockthemen, Budapest and Berlin, 2 vols, 1956, vol. I, p. 93.
A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol 1616-1680 Een leerling van Rembrandt, diss., Utrecht, 1976, p. 144.
E. Zafran, ‘Jan Victors and the Bible’, The Israel Museum News, 12, 1977, p. 111m, fig. 28, pp. 114, 116, 120.   E. Haverkamp Begemann, ed., Wadsworth Atheneum Paintings, Catalogue I, The Netherlandish and German speaking Countries, Fifteenth to Nineteenth Centuries, Hartford, 1978, p. 199, under note 165, illustrated.
A. Blankert, Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680) Rembrandt’s Pupil, Doornspijk, 1982, p. 93, under cat. no. 8, illustrated fig. 71.
Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, vol. IV, 1983, p. 2604, no. 1752, p. 2651, illustrated.
D. Miller, Jan Victors, 1619-1676, diss., University of Delaware, 1985, pp. 78 & 299, A.58, illustrated.
V. Manuth, Ikonographische Studien zu den Historien des Alten Testaments bei Rembrandt und seiner frühen Amsterdamer Schule, diss., Berlin, 1987, cat. no. 35, illustrated fig. 143. 


Exhibited

On loan to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 1898-1911


Essay

Jan Victors’s Joseph brings his Father before Pharaoh of 1652 exemplifies the artist’s depiction of biblical subjects handled on a grand scale.  The signed and dated painting, executed on canvas measuring an impressive 163 x 204 cm, has only recently emerged from a private collection where it has been hidden from the public eye since the 1930s. 

The subject depicted is taken from the Book of Genesis, chapter 47, verses 7-10:-

7.  “And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
8.  And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?
9.  And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, the days and years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: …
10.  And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.”   

In Victors’s representation of this episode, Pharaoh is seen in strict profile, seated on the throne, on a slightly raised dais, in the right foreground, magnificently dressed in a gold-encrusted, red velvet cloak, with an ermine collar, and a huge turban and crown perched on his head, holding a sceptre in one hand.   The aged Jacob kneels before him on one knee, wearing a heavy brown, fur-trimmed gown, with his hands raised and his eyes deferentially lowered.  Joseph stands behind him, with his hands on his father’s shoulders, looking earnestly at the Pharaoh.  He, too, is splendidly attired in a long cloak, trimmed with gold thread, and a turban and jewel on his head, as befits his position as the Pharaoh’s grand vizier.  Two of the Pharaoh’s advisors stand behind him to the right talking among themselves.  A black attendant peers from behind Joseph.  At the back of the room, through an opening in the curtains, flanked by soldiers, we catch a glimpse of a city beyond, with crowds of people and fanciful pyramids. 

Despite an extensive oeuvre, including a significant number of unusually large paintings, Victors remains a somewhat shadowy figure.  He is not mentioned by any of the standard biographers of the Dutch seventeenth-century painters, nor is the name of his teacher documented.  He has traditionally been regarded as a pupil of Rembrandt (1606-1669) in the mid-to-late-1630s, but more recently this view has been challenged.  Sluijter hypothesised  that an older artist from the group of Amsterdam history painters, known as the Pre-Rembrandtists – perhaps  Claes Moyaert (1592-1655), François Venant (c. 1591-1636), or Salomon Koninck (1609-1656) - was a more likely candidate for his teacher.   He also argued that the Rembrandtesque traits which are manifestly evident in Victors’s work could have been assimilated by any artist working in Amsterdam at that time.  Whatever the case, there can be no doubt that Victors, like many ambitious young painters of his generation, was profoundly influenced by the great master.

Like Rembrandt, and most of his pupils, Victors painted predominantly history subjects, portraits and genre scenes.  Starting in 1640, he regularly signed and dated his works.  His most accomplished works belong to the years between about 1645-53 when he was at his most productive.  During this period, he produced a steady stream of large-format paintings depicting biblical subjects.  Judging from their exceptionally large size, they must surely have been commissioned works, indicating that Victors had a group of patrons interested in his work at this time.  However, the success of these years was not maintained.  After 1653, his career seems to have faltered and there was a notable reduction both in the number and quality of his work. The reason for this decline is not well understood, but fierce competition in the art market, changes of taste, and a slowing down of the economy may all have played their part.  During this period, he turned increasingly to genre scenes, no doubt in an attempt to attract a new audience for his work.  However, his later years were overshadowed by financial difficulties and he was eventually forced to give up painting altogether. 

BIOGRAPHY

The seventh of ten children born to Louis Victors and Stijntje Jaspers, Jan Victors was baptised “Hans”in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, on 13 June 1619.   His family was not well off: his grandfather, who had emigrated from Antwerp, is described as a Spanish chair maker (Spaense stoelenmaker).  His father also practised the same craft until 1625 when he became a city messenger (bode op Dordrecht) and was able to buy a house on the Rokin for 2000 guilders.  Jan’s younger step-brother Jacobus Victors (1640-1705), the son of Louis Victors by his third marriage, became a bird painter.  The artist was a strict Calvinist.  In 1642, he married Jannetje Bellers, who bore him seven children, before her death in 1661. 

Although Victor’s artistic training is undocumented, he has long presumed to have been a pupil of Rembrandt in the mid-to-late-1630s.   His earliest signed and dated works are from 1640.  During the 1640s and early 1650s, he painted large-scale biblical scenes and portraits.  Among them are two large group portraits of the female Regents of the Reformed Church Orphanage (Diaconieweeshuis) in Amsterdam, and a portrait of the Amsterdam mayor Jan Appelmann, now in the Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem.  From around 1650, Victors expanded his repertoire to include genre subjects – village scenes, with butchers, dentists, and other practitioners going about their trade in the open air - but after the mid-1650s his output declined.  The painter’s last years were marked by constant financial worries.  Around 1670, he appears to have given up painting altogether.  In 1673, he joined the service of the East India Company (VOC) as a ziekentrooster (comforter of the sick), working as a medical orderly and a lay preacher on the company’s trading ships.  Victors left Amsterdam for the East Indies (present-day Indonesia) early in 1676, where he died later that year or early in 1677.       


Jan Victors

(Amsterdam 1619 - 1676/7 Dutch East Indies)

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