house in the woods

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678)
“Triumph of Frederik Hendrik” (1651)
Oil on canvas
Located in the Paleis Huis ten Bosch, The Hague, Netherlands

The painting portrays over fifty figures surrounding Stadholder Frederik Hendrik and his relatives. The piece was painted in honour of Stadholder Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange, and commissioned by his consort, Amalia van Solms. She was looking to commemorate him after his death in 1647. The collection of work was meant to glorify the prince and his valiant deeds. Instead of describing events, using straight forward images and icons, the piece was painted in allegories used to enthrone Hendrik as heroic and virtuous. Jordaens was chosen because he was highly respected as part of the Flemish trio that included Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck.

Frederik Hendrik rides on a triumphal chariot, carried as a god, as bringer of peace and as one who has manifested prosperity shown in olive branches and cornucopias. On both sides of the painting are portraits of men carrying products from the West and East Indies. This makes the prince appear as if he is solely responsible for military victories as well as the immense wealth of the Republic. The work was made with intensive complexity. Even today scholars discuss the many references Jordaens included in the painting. Many still find it difficult to decode all of them. The overall message is easy to gather, however, it is filled with so many symbolic people and figures that further explanation from the artist was needed by his contemporaries to understand all of the painting.