© RMFAB, Brussels / J. Geleyns - Art Photography

The King Drinks

Jacob Jordaens, ca. 1640
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels

The King Drinks is one of Jordaens’ most famous and well-loved paintings. It is Twelfth Night or Three Kings’ Day, and following tradition, revelers crown and toast the member of the party who has found a bean in his portion of the special festive pastry – the ‘king’. Jordaens returned to this subject on a number of occasions, which suggests that it was well received by his immediate circle. The monumental size of the canvas, the life-size figures, and the low viewpoint draw the viewer in and convey the warmth of the setting and the exuberance of the festivities. The composition of a static old man surrounded by a densely packed circle of exuberant onlookers of all ages recalls the painted bacchanals by Jordaens’ older contemporary Rubens, such as the latter’s Drunken Silenus. The King Drinks is an acutely observed, timeless depiction of the human condition and must have provoked in the mid-seventeenth century the same knowing smile of recognition in the viewer that it does today.

Lucy Davis, The Wallace Collection, London, United Kingdom

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Preparatory drawing for the painting

In Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

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Jacques Jordaens. An artist revisited.

Lecture by Joost Vander Auwera about Jordaens and common misinterpretations of his work, including ‘The King Drinks’ (35 min)

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