Abraham Janssens the Younger became a Master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in or around 1636 and also worked as an art dealer. After the death of Janssens the Elder in 1632, he took over the running of his father's workshop. The present work is likely to date from the mid 1630s, prior to his departure for Italy in 1639. Like his father, Janssens travelled to Rome and studied antique sculpture and the art of Michelangelo and Raphael. He lived and worked in the city for a period of about ten years up to 1649, at one point residing with his friend, the Dutch landscape painter Johannes Lingelbach.2 In contrast to the more tenebrist style of his father, however, the Younger's independent paintings display an elegance and grace which reflect the work of perhaps Antwerp’s most influential painter, Sir Peter Paul Rubens. In fact, the verso of this high quality piece of copper is inscribed with a period attribution to Rubens, bearing the inscription P.RVBENS.F, a clear sign as to the high regard with which the work has traditionally been held.
The design of the present work reflects the popularity of the female personifications of the Flora produced by Janssens and his workshop. While this is the highest quality known version in a bust-length format, other full length versions which also feature Cupid and a background landscape include, for example, that sold together with an Allegory of Autumn, New York, Sotheby’s, 14 October 1992, lot 104. It has been suggested that the flowers in this composition may have been painted by Jan Brueghel the Younger, who was married to Janssens’ sister Anna Maria (c.1605–after 1668).
1. C. Ripa, Iconologia, of Uytbeelding des verstands, (trans. and ed., D. Pietersz. Pers) Amsterdam 1644, p. 506: '…Met root, wit geel gebloemt bespreet. / Van Melck en Roosen bloost haer wangh, / Haer tanden zijn als peerlen blanck. / ‘t Korael rontom haer lippen swiert: / S’ is met een bloeme-krans geciert…'
2. The artistic personality and work of Janssens the Younger will be more widely covered in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of works by Abraham Janssens the Elder, prepared by Dr. Joost Van der Auwera.
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