Saint Augustine of Hippo, Oil on canvas, ca. 1625 - 1630
This work is an oil on canvas painting completed by the school of Jacob Jordaens circa 1625-1630 depicting St. Augustine of Hippo writing in a study surrounded by books. Jordaens is famous for his paintings in the Flemish Baroque style, and commonly designed altarpieces and tapestries, mythological, and allegorical scenes. After the infamous Peter Paul Rubens died in 1640, Jordaens became the most important painter in the city of Antwerp (located in northern Belgium) for large-scale commissions. However, he is best known today for his numerous genre scenes based on proverbs that he painted in a manner comparable to that of his contemporary, Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Jordaens’ main artistic influences aside from Rubens and Brueghel, were northern Italian painters such as Veronese and Caravaggio. Indeed, with its high level of realism, non-descript background, deep, dark shadows, and spotlight-like lighting, this work could be described as Carvaggesque. However, the work was likely not completed, or at least fully completed, by the hand of the master (or Jordaens himself). Like many successful artists of the day, Jordaens had a large workshop, or school, in which many apprentices and students, some of whom became famous in their own right, produced paintings. These paintings can be divided into three categories: those painted by Jordaens himself, those which he painted only in part (mainly hands and faces), and those he merely supervised.
In Saint Augustine of Hippo, the books surrounding Saint Augustine (354 CE – 430 CE), along with the quill in his hand, represent his writings in Christian theology which influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. “Augustine beliefs” included that Biblical text should not be interpreted as literal, but rather as metaphorical, and his liberal doctrines appealed to the Flemish whose Dutch neighbors had embraced the Reform Church. Indeed, he has long been viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christian. His name “Hippo” derives from the ancient name of the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria. Hippo was conquered by the Eastern Roman Empire in 534 CE and was kept under Byzantine rule until 698 CE, when it fell to the Muslims.