The Ferryboat: Dating the additions of a complex painting

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Re-use of canvas, multiple enlargements, figures painted over, pentimenti: the large Ferryboat to Antwerp (The National Gallery of Denmark) shows all the familiar characteristics of Jordaens’ painting technique. Still, it took a complete X-ray analysis, many samples and the fortunate occurrence of a smaller version of the painting (The Obol in the mouth of the Fish, Rijksmuseum] to fully understand the complex genesis of this painting.
At the start of the restoration of this masterpiece, August 2007, the general assumption among art historians and restorers involved in the project was that the latest additions of four of the in total eight pieces of canvas in the painting, were added in the 18th century when the painting had travelled from Amsterdam to its new residence in Finspång castle, Sweden. These additions enlarged the painting by c. 45 cm along the top and c. 10 cm along its bottom edge. Thoughts on concealing these additions within the frame where discussed with an Advisory Committee in October 2007. At the same time it was agreed that such measures should be taken only if it could be verified that the additions were not original.
The attempt to substantiate the theory involved an extensive study of the entire canvas: the weave, (original) tacking edges and the joints between the various pieces of canvas. This was done mainly by studying the digital X-radiograph. In addition, a survey of Jordaens’ use of different ground layers throughout his career was carried out with a view of placing the additions within or outside his oeuvre. The results of this study of the ground layers are published in the recent volume: Jacob Jordaens. Ein Maler großen Formats. (Eds. Birgit Ulrike Muench and Zita Àgota Pataka 2012, pp. 245-267). The technical features of the additions in question turned out to be rather consistent with components seen in some of Jordaens’ late work. A surprisingly convincing result of a C14-dating test on a sample of the canvas provided the last piece of evidence, confirming that the additions should be dated at least two decades before Jordaens’ death in 1678, and therefore could have been added by him or under his supervision.

Videnskabelig fremlæggelse ved symposium i Kassel arr. af Museumlandschaft Hessen-Kassel
Periode7 maj 2013
BegivenhedstitelInternationale Symposium of the VDR in Cooperation with the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel: Jacob Jordaens - Genesis – Transformation – Conservation
PlaceringKassel, TysklandVis på kort


  • Jacop Jordaens, maleteknik