Together with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) is considered to be one of the three most important painters from the Southern Netherlands. When Le Joueur de cornemuse (The Bagpiper) was put up for auction in London, the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, decided to buy it.
The painting is of particular importance because Jordaens himself can be recognized as the musician. Such a passionate musician can moreover be found in some of Jordaens’s other works.
However, despite having used himself as the model, this painting cannot be considered as a self-portrait of the artist. The painter was already rich and ambitious and rather successful, so it is somewhat surprising that he would represent himself playing the bagpipes, an instrument of popular music. In official portraits, such as those where he posed with his wife and daughter, Jordaens is represented with a lute, the most prestigious musical instrument of the 17th century. The fact that Jordaens painted himself with the bagpipes, a much less noble instrument, must therefore be interpreted as a form of self-mockery.
Following its restoration, which was also financed by the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund, the painting was entrusted to the Rubens House in Antwerp. Jordaens worked in the studio of Rubens between 1615 and 1618 and during the 1630s he even helped Rubens to finish some commissions for the King of Spain. The Rubens House collection already contained some high quality works by Jordaens, but this new acquisition has enabled it to show a different aspect of the artist’s work.