(Antwerp, 1593-1678)


Head of a Cheerful Man Wearing a Cap


red, black, and white chalk on paper

5 2/3 x 4 ½ inches
(14.3 x 11.3 cm)

watermark: the arms of Amsterdam


Christie’s, Amsterdam, 1 December 1986, lot 46.     
Private Collection, New York, 1987-2019.


Roger Adolf d’Hulst, “Jordaens Drawings: Supplement II,” Master Drawings, vol. 28, no. 2, 1990, pp. 153-156, no. A237a, fig. 17. 
Matías Díaz Padrón, Jacob Jordaens y España, Barcelona, 2018, vol. 1, pp. 352-354, fig. 7.

This delightful drawing is the work of Jacob Jordaens, a defining figure of northern Baroque painting. Jordaens was a prolific draughtsman, and, like his contemporaries Rubens and van Dyck, made numerous preparatory drawings for his paintings—a trend that was becoming increasingly popular among Flemish painters of the day.

This spirited study an old man laughing heartily was likely drawn from life after a model. Jordaens has masterfully alternated between the black and red chalk to accentuate the old man’s prominent features—sharpening the lines of his eyes, nose, and mouth with quick strokes of the black chalk, and modelling his cheeks and chin by hatching and shading with the red. This drawing is similar in format and style to Jordaens’s study from life for the head of a jester in the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in South Hadley, Massachusetts,[1] which was used for the figure of the cook in The King Drinks in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.


The present study served as the basis for several grinning figures in Jordaens’s painted oeuvre. The figure is recognizable in the smiling face of Democritus in the artist’s Democritus and Heraclitus (fig. 1).[2] In this painting, as in many representations of these two philosophers, they are shown in the persona of their opposed philosophical positions. Democritus (the “Laughing Philosopher”) laughs at his cares, while Heraclitus (the “Weeping Philosopher”) laments his. Jordaens’s also exaggerated the features of the man in this drawing to achieve the plump figure shown overflowing with laughter in his Jester, Woman, and Cat in a Window (fig. 2).[3] This painting was extremely popular and there are several autograph variants, workshop versions, and later copies that feature only the jester and his cat.[4] Jordaens’s image of the jester was also popularized through the print made after his painting by Alexander Voet (fig. 3). Our model is also found smiling in the upper right of Jordaens’s As the Old Sing, So the Young Pipe formerly in a private collection, Belgium (fig. 4).

Given the relation of this drawing to these paintings of the 1640’s and 1650’s, d’Hulst considers it to be a late work of the artist. The drawing may have originally been executed as a preparatory study for one of the paintings cited above. It is clear that the drawing was kept in Jordaens’s workshop, and that he referred to and re-elaborated it when designing several of his painted works.


[1] Roger Adolf d'Hulst, Jordaens Drawings, New York, 1974, no. A 164; http://museums.fivecolleges.


[2] For a discussion of this painting, see: Jordaens y España, pp. 304-306, no. 47.

[3] For a discussion of this painting, see: Jordaens y Espana, pp. 348-355, no. 57.

[4] Ibid.