A painting hung for decades in a municipal building in Brussels has been authenticated as the work of the Flemish master Jacob Jordaens.
After an analysis including dendrochronology – dating the works from the wood panels on which they are painted – experts determined that this was the earliest known version of The Holy Family by Jordaens, painted in the early 17th C. century.
“The incredible discovery” was carried out by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage with the help of international experts as part of an inventory of cultural property in the Brussels district of Saint-Gilles.
The painting, considered to be a copy, had been hung at the town planning and development office of Saint-Gilles town hall since the 1960s.
Jordaens, a great Flemish Baroque painter who was a contemporary with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, created the work in 1617 or 1618 when he was just 25, the institute said in a statement.
Analysis revealed that the wood used in the panel depicting the infant Jesus with Joseph, Mary and his mother Saint Anne came from the same tree that Van Dyck used.
Constantin Pion, an art historian, said Van Dyck and Jordaens were “most likely” working in Rubens’ studio at the same time.
Jordaens used the same composition, with variations, in three other paintings of the Holy Family held by the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the statement said.
The discovery provided “a sort of matrix of what he would do later,” said Pierre Dejemeppe, a specialist in the cultural heritage of Saint-Gilles.
“This will allow us to better understand later versions” of the topic, he said.
After its restoration, the work will be presented at the end of next year at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.