The painting has been hanging on the wall in the office of the Alderman responsible for town planning since the 1960’s. Prior to that it was on display in a municipal museum. The painting was given to the municipality of Sint-Gillis by an art collector in 1915. It had been valued by art experts on several occasions, but they had always said that the painting was a copy or the work of one of the Flemish master’s followers.
It was the art historian Constantin Pion (photo above left) that discovered the painting is genuine. When he looked at the back of the painting Mr Pion saw that it was stamped with the emblem of the Control Commission of the City of Antwerp. The emblem dates from around 1618. There are also two hands engraved on the back of the panel. These are the sign used by an Antwerp guild at this time. During this period Jacob Jordaens had no apprentices and so no one to copy his work.
Constantin Pion first saw the painting when he and his team were carrying out an inventory of the artwork at Sint-Gillis’ impressive Town Hall on behalf of the regional authorities.
New York and Sint-Petersburg
The scene featured on the painting (photo above) is called ‘The Holy Family’. It also features on work by Jordaens that is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
The municipal authorities in Sint-Gillis are giving the painting to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts on long term loan. The painting will be restored and should go on display at the museum towards the end of next year.