Jan van Kessel the Younger
Jan van Kessel the Younger or Jan van Kessel II (Antwerp, 23 November 1654 - Madrid, 1708), known in Spain as Juan Vanchesel el Mozo or el Joven, was a Flemish painter who after training in Antwerp worked in Spain. Known mainly for his portraits he became a court painter to the King and Queen of Spain. He is also believed to have been active as a still life painter, initially working in a style close to that of his father Jan van Kessel the Elder.
Jan van Kessel the Younger was born in Antwerp as the son of Jan van Kessel the Elder (1626–1679) and Maria van Apshoven. He was a scion of the famous Flemish dynasty of painters of the Brueghel family. His father was the son of Hieronymus van Kessel the Younger and Paschasia Brueghel (the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder). Jan van Kessel the Younger was thus Jan Brueghel the Elder's great-grandson and Pieter Brueghel the Elder's great-great-grandson. His brother Ferdinand van Kessel was also a painter.
He likely trained under his father Jan van Kessel the Elder. Rather than becoming a master in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke, he moved to Madrid in or before 1679. In Madrid he became a painter to the court and gained a reputation mainly through his portraits.
The artists gained recognition at court under the reign of Charles II of Spain for the portraits he made of Queen Marie Louise d'Orléans, first wife of Charles II. In 1686 he became officially the painter of the Queen. He is said to have received a commission from the Queen to paint scenes on the ceiling of her chambers in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid. Upon the death of the first wife of Charles II, van Kessel continued to serve as a portrait painter at the court and gained the favour of the king's new wife, Mariana of Neuburg.
With the change of ruling dynasty from the Habsburgs to the Bourbons following the accession to the throne of Philip V of Spain in 1700, the artist's popularity at court went into decline. This was likely due to his continued close relationship with the widowed former Queen. The new king was not happy with his work possibly due to the ascendancy of French tastes at the Bourbon court. The artist had become well-off by that time.
He is said to have painted portraits, flower pieces, still lifes, game pieces and art galleries. However, some art historians have questioned whether the attribution to Jan van Kessel the Younger of still lifes is due to confusion with other artists with a similar name all active around the same time. In addition to his father, there was another Antwerp painter with the name Jan van Kessel (referred to as 'the other' Jan van Kessel) who painted still lifes, while in Amsterdam there was a Jan van Kessel known as a landscape painter. To complicate things further, but because his father had an uncle also called Jan van Kessel, his father is sometimes referred to as Jan van Kessel II and Jan van Kessel the Younger as Jan van Kessel III.
A number of still life works previously given to Jan van Kessel the Younger by scholars Klaus Ertz and Christa Nitze-Ertz in their 2012 publication on the painters called Jan van Kessel, has since 2017 been reattributed by the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) to Pseudo-Jan van Kessel the Younger. Pseudo-Jan van Kessel the Younger is the notname given to an artist or workshop to whom or which are attributed about 200 small still lifes produced in Southern Europe in the late 16th and early 17th century. Jan van Kessel the Younger's small known authentic oeuvre is different in style and execution and substantially higher in quality than the works, which have now been attributed to Pseudo Jan van Kessel the Younger.
His portrait style was described by his contemporary Antonio Palomino as very close to that of his fellow Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck. Van Kessel was a specialist of the genre of group portraits. An example is the Portrait of a family in a garden in the Prado Museum, which depicts a Flemish gentleman (believed to be a protector or patron of van Kessel) with his family. The symbolic intent of the work is to praise family life and family virtues such as fidelity. The guitar playing man symbolises family harmony and the dog the virtue of fidelity. The mature woman surrounded by the small children symbolizes the virtue of charity while the young couple holding hands represent conjugal love. The painting includes a self-portrait of the artist who is leaning out of a window in the background to the right. A slightly different version of the work, painted in the same year as the Prado version, is in Warsaw. The artist also painted a number of individual portraits. An example are the pair of portraits of Charles II of Spain and Maria Anna of Neuburg (Colección Abelló, Madrid), which are less formal than traditional official portraits.
While some art historians have questioned whether Jan van Kessel the Younger was a still life painter, various still lifes have been attributed to him. Similar in style to those of his father, these still lifes are perfectly balanced compositions, which are characterised by an attention for detail and the use of delicate colours. The Flemish style of his still lifes gradually took on some of the features of the style of still life painting of his adoptive country Spain.
Antonio Palomino also mentioned that van Kessel was a skilled landscape artist. No work in this genre has been securely attributed to van Kessel. A topographical view of a street in Madrid representing a View of the Carrera de San Jerónimo and the Paseo del Prado with a Procession of Carriages (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid) has tentatively been attributed to him.
- Jan van Kessel II at the Prado Enciclopedia online (Spanish)
- Frans Jozef Peter Van den Branden, Geschiedenis der Antwerpsche schilderschool, Antwerpen, 1883, p. 1098-1105 (Dutch)
- Portrait of a family in a garden at the Prado Museum (Spanish)
- Jan van Kessel the Younger at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- 'the other' Jan van Kessel at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- Jan van Kessel (of Amsterdam) at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- Pseudo-Jan van Kessel at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- Colección Abelló (Spanish)
- Jan van Kessel the Younger, Basket and bowls of fruit with two monkeys. a squirrel, a macaw and two guinea-pigs at Gallery De Jonckheere
- Attributed to Jan van Kessel III, View of the Carrera de San Jerónimo and the Paseo del Prado with a Procession of Carriages at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
- Dr. Klaus Ertz & Christa Nitze-Ertz, Die Maler Jan van Kessel - Jan van Kessel d.Ä. (1626-1679), Jan van Kessel d.J. (1654-1708), Jan van Kessel der 'Andere' (um 1620-nach 1661), Luca-Verlag, Lingen, Germany, 2012.
- Media related to Jan van Kessel the Younger at Wikimedia Commons