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 Jan de Bray



Jan de Bray         Pages: 1

Jan de Bray (ca.1627 April 4, 1697), was a Dutch Golden Age painter.

Jan de Bray was born in Haarlem. According to Houbraken he was the most famous pupil of his father, the architect and poet Salomon de Bray. Houbraken called Jan the "pearl in Haarlem's crown". Houbraken saw a painting by de Bray of David and the Return of the Ark of the Covenant in the collection of Arnold van Halen in Amsterdam, dated 1697, that he admired for its realistic flesh tones in the forms of David playing the harp and the Levites behind him. Houbraken also mentioned some black and red chalk drawings by him that he saw at the Amsterdam home of Isaak del Court.

He spent most of his career working in Haarlem, where he was for many years dean of the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke. His brother Dirck de Bray was a flower painter who later became a monk in the monastery at Gaesdonck near Goch. His brother Joseph was also a painter, and his sister Cornelia married Jan Lievens. His mother was Anna Westerbaen, the sister of the painter Jan Westerbaen and the poet Jacob Westerbaen. Jan de Bray had to cope with death many times. Part of his family died of the plague. His three wives each died within a few years of his marriage to them. In 1689 he was declared bankrupt as a Haarlem citizen and he moved to Amsterdam, where he stayed until his death. He was buried in Haarlem on April 4 1697.

Jan de Bray was influenced by his father, Bartholomeus van der Helst and Frans Hals. De Bray's works are mainly portraits, often of groups. He specialised in posing specific figures as historical figures, thus achieving paintings that encompassed the genres of portrait and history painting. The French term for these, "portrait historié" (literally "historicised portrait") is also used in English, sometimes without the accent. Among his finest works are two versions of the Banquet of Cleopatra, using his own family, including himself, as models (Royal Collection, 1652, and Currier Museum of Art, New Hampshire, 1669). The second version has great pathos, as most of those depicted had died in the plague of 1663-4.

As a key figure in Dutch Classicalism of the seventeenth century, De Bray, like his contemporaries, drew inspiration from the same ancient writers and sources as the Italian artists of the fifteenth century. Working in the classical tradition, these artists emphasised harmony, proportion and balance in their compositions in order to present an idealised beauty.

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Allegorical Family Portrait


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