In the 17th century, Jacob van Oost I was the most prominent painter in Bruges. He spent several years in Italy, where he was heavily influenced by the work of Caravaggio. In the spirit of the Counter Reformation, Van Oost painted numerous altarpieces for Bruges’ churches and monasteries. In addition, he worked as a portrait painter to the bourgeoisie. His son Jacob van Oost II also made his name as a Bruges portraitist and history painter.
Flemish Baroque painting exhibits a pronounced tendency towards specialisation. In the major art centres of Antwerp and Brussels, certain artists turned to monumental history paintings: historical, Biblical or mythological scenes.
Other painters specialised in portraits, landscapes, paintings of everyday scenes – known as genre paintings – or still lifes. Painters became masters of various sub-genres, such as the flower piece, the fruit still life, the animal piece, or the trompe l’oeil still life, into which vanitas symbolism, or symbols of transience, were incorporated.
The various genres were popular with collectors and featured prominently in their art displays and chambers of wonders.
God the Father, wearing a tiara, reveals his Son, Jesus Christ, who emphatically points to his wounds. Hovering above them is the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove. The iconography draws on a print by Dürer. This composition, of which there are several extant versions, is attributed to the studio of the Antwerp-based painter Artus Wolfordt.
In this monumental painting, we see the tremendous influence of Rubens on the younger painter Jan van den Hoecke, who worked with the master in the 1630s. In this Old Testament scene, Jacob kneels before his twin brother Esau, who is the elder, and begs forgiveness for having wronged him in the past. Jacob had deprived Esau of his rights as the first born son, and thus of their father’s blessing.
This mysterious panel is one of De Crayer’s earliest works. It depicts King Saul kneeling before a witch, whom he commands to invoke the ghost of the deceased prophet Samuel. Samuel announces Saul’s imminent death. In the background to the right is a depiction of how the latter will die the following day: defeated by the Philistines on the battlefield, Saul falls upon his sword in despair.