Jacob Jordaens, 1593-1678

Jacob Jordaens, 1593-1678

Jacob Jordaens, The King Drinks (1638)

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"In een vry gelachllst goet gast syn" ("Where there is a free meal it is good to be a guest.")

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We see a scene from "The Festival of the Three Kings," a holiday celebrating The Epiphany, usually held of January 6. The closse-acked interior shows, not a solemn celebration of a sacred event, but a carnival atmosphere expressing joy in all its colors, bright and dark.

Some commentators see The King Drinks as a condemnation of drunken excess. However, since the king in the painting is Jordaens' father-in-law, Adam van Noort, it is unlikely that the work is an expression of outrage or condemnation. Rather, like so many other Flemish narrative works, we see the whole range of human emotions and actions: some disgusting, some laughable, some heightened by merriment, and a host of other feelings and sensations. Anyone who has ever joined a rollicking party will recognize the gamut.

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A quieter version of a festive gathering: Jordaens's rendition of the Flemish saying "Soo voor gesongen, soo na gepepen.” ("As the old sing, so the young pipe")

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