The Satyr and the Peasant, Jordaens

The Satyr and the Peasant, Jordaens
The Satyr and the Peasant, Jordaens

Traditionally, works of painting have been divided into genres according to their theme in such a way that the works had more or less importance –and supposedly also more difficulty- depending on the genre they focused on. However, one of the most characteristic facts of the Dutch baroque aesthetic is the conjunction within the same canvas of several artistic genres that is, on the same canvas the artist represented at the same time a biblical theme and a portrait for example. On this occasion, the work we are analyzing here is a conjunction between the costumbrista genre and mythological painting.


The Satyr and the Peasant is a work by Jacob Jordaens, the painter who is considered to be the last of the great Dutch masters of the Golden Age. Jordaens (1593 – 1678) was the first-born son of a merchant from resources so he received a good education. Of his teachers, we know that he was trained in the workshop of Adam Van Noort just like Rubens did, but unlike the latter, Jordaens never traveled to Italy, so his artistic genius has a more local character than that of Rubens.

His works seem to show little interest in the courtly world and proof of this is the piece we are analyzing here, an oil on canvas painted in theyear 1620and that in It is currently in the Munich Pinacoteca. This is a horizontal format canvaswhich measures just over two meters wide and one meter seventy high; it represents an Aesop fable in which a peasant and a satyr are eating together. The satyr sees the peasant blowing on his hands to get warm and then blowing on the soup they were eating to cool it down. Disgruntled, he gets angry with the peasant, commenting that he cannot trust someone who, with the same mouth, heats and cools the air. The work speaks to us of the dichotomy of the human being, of that double nature that exists inside each man.

The author has set the scene in his own time, hence the canvas is the perfect reflection of the peasant society of his time. In fact, the woman who represents the peasant's wife is the painter's own wife. All the characters are dressed in typical clothes of the time except for the satyr who is completely naked sitting at the table.

The piece continues with the traditional tenebrist lighting initiated by Caravaggio in the Baroque era, the lights and shadows nuance the canvas creating volumes. The chromatic range used is earthy, combining perfectly with the nuances of golden light.

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