Jacob Ferdinand Voet

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Jacob Ferdinand Voet[1] (c. 1639 – c. 1689/1700) was a Flemish portrait painter who had an international career in Italy and France where he made portraits for prominent patrons.


Portrait of a Gentleman with a Lace Collar

Few details about Voet's early life, training and career have been preserved. Voet was born in Antwerp as the son of the painter Elias Voet.[2] He left his native Antwerp and travelled to Rome where he resided in 1679-1680. Voet became a member of the Bentvueghels, an association of mainly Dutch and Flemish artists active in Rome. Voet drew a picture in charcoal of all the members of the Bentvueghels on the white-washed wall of an inn in Rome that was a popular meeting place of this group. The picture was treasured enough to be spared whenever the walls were repainted.[3]

In Rome Voet’s skills as a portrait painter were much in demand at the Papal court and by the Roman aristocracy, including the prominent Colonna and Odescalchi families.[4] He was patronised by Christina, Queen of Sweden, who was then resident in Rome. He painted her portrait as well as that of her friend, Cardinal Azzolino.[5] In 1671-1672 he received a commission from Cardinal Chigi to paint at least 20 portraits of young woman who were prominent in Roman society. This started a rage for portraits of young women in Rome and abroad.[6] Englishmen and other Europeans visiting Rome on their Grand Tour also commissioned portraits from Voet.[5]

In Rome Voet lived with the painter-engraver Cornelis Bloemaert. He was banned from the city by Pope Innocent XI who was scandalized by Voet's portraits of women portrayed with unseemly décolleté. He left Rome and is recorded in Milan in 1680. He was in Florence in 1681 where he worked for the Medici family.[7] Subsequently he resided in Turin from 1682 to 1684. He returned to Antwerp in 1684.[2] According to the 18th century biographer Arnold Houbraken, Voet set out on his return journey to Antwerp from Turin together with the Dutch painter Jan van Bunnik, whom he had already met in Rome in the company of Cornelis Bloemaert.[3] From Turin they set out for Lyons, where they met the painters Adriaen van der Cabel, Pieter van Bloemen, and Gillis Wenix. They then started out for Paris in the company of a third painter, Jacob van Bunnik who was Jan van Bunnik's brother.[3]

Voet was likely back in Antwerp in 1684. He left his hometown for Paris at some time between 1684 and 1686.[2] In Paris he became portrait painter to political and military personalities such as Michel Le Tellier, François-Michel le Tellier and Marquis of Humières.[7]

Jacques d'Agar was probably his pupil.[8]

He died in Paris.[2]


Clelia Cesarini Colonna, Duchess of Sonnino, as Cleopatra

Houbraken noted that Voet painted history paintings and landscapes, but that it was through his royal, ecclesiastical and class portraits that he secured his success.[3] It is likely that the works of the portrait painters Carlo Maratta (1625-1713) and Pierre Mignard (1612-1695) who were active in Rome at the same time as Voet inspired the comparable elegance of his style, which he combined with the Flemish attention to detail.[9][4]

Voet specialized in half-length portraits, in which all attention is concentrated on the subject, who emerges from a neutral, dark background. Voet's subjects usually have a reflective expression and very striking, memorable eyes, always large and evocative.[10] He concentrated on decorative elements such as the hair and clothing of the characters.[7] His paintings appear to have been executed with an effortless accuracy and a fluid ease.[10] He was also noted as a painter of miniature portraits.[2]

His works were widely disseminated through copies by the Roman painter Pietro Veglia and engravings by the Flemish engraver Albertus Clouwet. The Roman publisher Giovanni Giacomo Rossi included Voet's portraits of Cardinals in the publication Effigies Cardinalium nunc viventum.[7]


Soldier with the Pink Knot
  1. ^ Name variations: Jacques Foué, Giacomo Ferdinando Voet, Jacobus Ferdinandus Voet, Ferdinand Vouet, Jacques Vouet, Ferdinand Voet
  2. ^ a b c d e Jacob Ferdinand Voet at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) (Dutch)
  3. ^ a b c d Johan van Bunnik biography in: Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 1718 (Dutch)
  4. ^ a b Il Museo di Roma racconta la città. Guida breve. Catalogo della mostra, Museo di Roma, Gangemi Editore spa, p. 33
  5. ^ a b Jacob Ferdinand Voet (1639-1689) at the National Portrait Gallery
  6. ^ Renata Ago, Gusto for Things: A History of Objects in Seventeenth-Century Rome, University of Chicago Press, 22 Apr 2013, p. 152
  7. ^ a b c d Jacob Ferdinand Voet at the online Encyclopaedia of the Prado Museum (Spanish)
  8. ^ D. Brême. "Agar, Jacques d’." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 5 Dec. 2014
  9. ^ Portrait of a Gentleman with Lace Collar in the Wakefield Art Gallery
  10. ^ a b Portrait of Hortense Mancini, Duchesse Mazarin, c.1670; Circle of Jacob Ferdinand Voet at Roy Precious - Antiques & Fine Art