Initially in 1992, the renowned French art historian Didier Bodart, an expert in Flemish art, attributed this painting to the painter Jan de Bray from Harlem. From more recent studies carried out by the Dutch company RKD, which is one of the leading research and documentation institutes in the world and specialises in Flemish painting, it appears it should have been attributed to Jacok Van Oost Il Vecchio (Bruge 1603-1671)
Jakob van Oost (around 1600 in Bruges , † around 1671 in Bruges) was a Flemish painter of the Baroque in Bruges. His work includes historical paintings and portraits .
On 19 January 1619, Jakob van Oost was enrolled as an apprentice to his brother Franz van Oost (1618 Masons in Bruges, † 1625) at the Guild of painters of Bruges. His early works include copies of the paintings by Jan van Eyck and Peter Paul Rubens , which were considered as originals by many in 1857. In 1621 he was appointed as an independent art master. During his time in Italy in the 1920s he studied the works of Annibale Carracci who was influenced by Caravaggio. After his return in 1630, he was a much sought-after artist for portraits, historic paintings and altarpieces. In 1633 he was elected head of the guild. Amongst his pupils were also his sons Jacob van Oost the Younger and Willem van Oost, who continued his father's school. After his copies, Ruben had achieved his own style, with a overall dark and tonal setting. His last work from 1660 is composed of works with blackish tones. His paintings can be found in religious institutions and collections in Bruges, as well as in privately owned collections in Belgium and in the following museums in Bergues , Berlin , Brussels , Caen , Dijon , Dunkirk , Leningrad , Lille , London , Lyon , New York City, Paris, Tournai , Valenciennes and Vienna .
Family portrait, Oil on canvas, 154 x 215 cm
The subject represented
This vast composition shows a couple with his four children, the mother of the young woman and on the left a grandmother, associating several generations in the same scene that takes place in the foreground of the terrace of a park. The couple surrounds the grandmother, who seems to be the real head of the family. The young woman is sitting on the left with the youngest child on her knees; her husband, on the right, plays the theorbo: on the right are the two oldest girls, one sumptuously dressed, the other accompanying her father with the help of a tambourine. The costumes allow us to date this work between 1650 and 1660. The interpretation of this type of theme in 17th century Dutch painting as a conversation piece was appropriately analysed by Mario Praz in his remarkable essay, the "Conversation Piece".
"The absence of reference to a heroic ideal in the sense of Machiavellian virtue is at the root of the fact that portrait painters did not propose an ideal model of quality. Moreover, as these models remained anchored in-corpore in the painting, which gave them life, their features kept the freedom of non-compliance with the classic or warrior paradigm. It must be remembered that most of them were essentially bourgeois. So, while in Italy they were used to portraying the aristocracy in portraiture, in Holland, on the other hand, they were amazed by the bourgeois Conversation Piece portrait, whose characters almost seemed to invite the spectator to take part in their domestic joys".