Jan Victors - Town Folk Coming to the Country
Town Folk Coming to the Country
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Jan Victors (Amsterdam 1619 - East Indies 1676)

Jan Victors was half-brother to the bird painter Jacobus Victors (?1640–1705) and the noted Delft potter Victor Victors (b 1638). About 150 oil paintings by Jan Victors, comprising portraits, genre scenes and historical subjects on both canvas and panel, have been catalogued. No signed or securely attributable drawing by him is known. Although his training is undocumented, Victors has long been considered a member of the school of Rembrandt in Amsterdam. His paintings of 1640–70 show many formal and thematic interrelationships with Rembrandt and his documented pupils of the 1630s: Govaert Flinck, Ferdinand Bol and Gerbrandt van den Eeckhout. Certain archaisms of Victors’s style—his peculiarly ponderous figure types, marked linearity, emphatic gestures and generally cluttered compositions—show the direct influence of Pieter Lastman and Claes Moeyaert. His interest in the art of manual rhetoric and the theatre is shown by the arrested histrionics of his figures and their exotic costumes and accessories.

During his early years (1640–45) Victors established a firmly controlled manner of figure painting in his portraits and historical scenes. Such works as the Young Woman at an Open Window (1640; Paris, Louvre) and the Capture of Samson (Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum) show a linear definition of form, sturdy three-dimensional figures and strong Baroque lighting. However, Victors’s middle years were his most productive, and from 1646 to 1655 he produced his most accomplished works. His light-filled compositions became increasingly vibrant and frequently included more subsidiary figures, animated gestures, agitated drapery and atmospheric effects, for example in the monumental Jacob Seeking the Forgiveness of Esau (1652; Indianapolis, IN, Museum of Arts). From 1646 Victors expanded his thematic repertory to include genre subjects depicting a variety of rustic types and provincial activities. Affinities with the genre production of Jan Miense Molenaer, Govaert Camphuyzen and Hendrick Sorgh are apparent in such works as The Dentist (1654; Amsterdam, History Museum), and the Greengrocer at the Sign of ‘de Buyskool’ (1654; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum).

After the mid-1650s Victors became less prolific, eventually abandoning painting to become a ziekentrooster (‘comforter of the sick’) in the service of the Dutch East India Company. His late work is generally less polished. The Portrait of a Family in Oriental Dress (1670; sold London, Sotheby’s, 14 Dec 1977, lot 111), Victors’s last dated work, shows a marked tendency towards stylization and harshness. Figure proportions are more elongated (though not more attenuated), modelling is darker and more opaque, colours more garish and the definition of space less logical, in keeping with the contemporary Dutch vogue for mannered aesthetics and schematization.

Victors is last documented in Amsterdam in January 1676. Shortly thereafter he departed for the East Indies and is reported to have died there of unspecified causes. A son, Victor Victors (b 16 Sept 1653), had travelled to the East and was recorded in Australia in 1696–7 as a ziekentrooster, draughtsman and cartographer with the Dutch East India Company.

Victors is represented in the following collections: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; History Museum, Amsterdam; Dordrechts Museum, Netherlands; The Louvre, Paris; National Gallery, London; Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig; National Museum in Warsaw; Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, amongst others.