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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Jacques Jordaens, Flemish (Antwerp, Belgium 1593 - 1678 Antwerp, Belgium)
Christ Carrying the Cross
Work Type
c. 1655-60
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Brown ink, brown wash, transparent and opaque watercolor, red and black chalk over black chalk underdrawing on seven pieces of light tan antique laid paper, pieced together and laid down overall
25.9 x 21.7 cm (10 3/16 x 8 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: mount, verso, upper left, graphite: Jordaens
  • inscription: mount, verso, lower left, graphite: Jordaens [underlined]
  • inscription: mount, verso, lower right, graphite: FC0 [or Fe0 ?]
  • inscription: mount, verso, center, graphite: [extensive erased inscription]
  • inscription: mount, verso, lower left, graphite: [extensive erased inscription]
  • inscription: former mount, graphite: property of / Paul J. Sachs. / Jordaens (Jakob) Antwerp 1593-1678 / Christ bearing the Cross / Ask KO's view + / input
  • label: old brown paper, in curatorial file, typeface: MORTIMER BRANDT GALLERY / 50 EAST 57TH STREET / NEW YORK, N. Y. / #10 - Jacob Jordaen Exhibition / Feb. 17th - March 16th, 1940
  • watermark: none


Recorded Ownership History
Possibly Samuel van Huls, The Hague, sold; [Jan Swart, The Hague, 14 May 1736, Port. O, lot 691.] Possibly Nourri, sold; [Paris, Folliot, Regnault, c.p. Brusley, Poussin, 24 February – 14 March 1785, part of lots 891-3.] [Frederick Keppel & Co., New York] sold; to Meta and Paul J. Sachs, Cambridge, Mass. (L. 2091, without his mark); Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs, 1965.226

Published Text

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Civil authorities in the Dutch Republic tolerated Roman Catholic worship as long as it took place out of sight in a clandestine church (Dutch: schuilkerk), typically a nondescript urban facade that masked an interior richly outfitted with altarpieces and devotional pictures.1 Jordaens’s Christ Carrying the Cross, for which this drawing was a preparatory study, was commissioned in the late 1650s by the Jesuit mission in Amsterdam. Although its original destination might have been another clandestine house of worship, the church of Saint Francis Xavier (nicknamed “De Krijtberg,” or Chalk Hill, after the house it occupied) possessed the altarpiece from an early date (Fig. 1).2 A resident of the officially Catholic Spanish Netherlands, Jordaens joined the Reformed Church around the time he painted this altarpiece for a Jesuit schuilkerk in Amsterdam. Artists of the period readily followed patrons’ iconographic programs without adopting their beliefs, and after his conversion, Jordaens continued to produce devotional works for Catholic institutions and private persons in the southern Netherlands.3

Of the four surviving studies for Christ Carrying the Cross, the Harvard drawing is the only one for the entire composition. While the design generally corresponds to that on the canvas, nearly every figure that appears in both drawing and painting has undergone some revisions, and further studies must have followed the Harvard work. In addition to repositioning the cross, Jordaens inserted a bearer with a basket on his head at the left and one of the thieves and his guard at the bottom of the picture. He also eliminated the woman, her child, and the head of a man at the lower right and relocated the figure of Simon of Cyrene (relegated to the far left in the study) by conflating it with the shirtless man who leans over the cross. Some of these changes are projected in the drawing by a few lines scribbled over the first state of the composition. The artist used red chalk to define a revised figure of Simon of Cyrene with his head above the crossbar, his arm around it, and his legs extended toward the head of the dog. A rectangle and other angular lines drawn in black chalk above the top of the cross suggest Jordaens rethought its length and orientation, and he used brown ink to modify the contours of Veronica’s cloth and the lower half of her dress.4 The close-up study of the central group, now in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, is farther removed from the picture than the Harvard composition and must have preceded it in the design process (Fig. 2).5 Detail studies from models for the heads of Simon of Cyrene and Veronica, both in black, red, and white chalks, belong to the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam.6

The composite support of the Harvard work exemplifies Jordaens’s practice of drawing on pieced-together rectangles, strips, and irregular scraps of paper. In most cases, he assembled the pieces before he began to draw, his sole motivation apparently being an obsessive drive to economize on paper. In other instances, such as this one, he cut and pasted to excise and substitute parts of a composition or he enlarged the support to accommodate an extension of the design.7 Here, the support consists of seven pieces. Nearly all of the composition is on one upright rectangular sheet. After completing an initial sketch on that piece, he probably trimmed it at the bottom. Narrow, vertical strips pasted over its right and left sides increased the width of the support a few millimeters. In some places, such as the ankle and foot of Simon of Cyrene at the far left, these strips cover the first sketch on the main support and the passage was redrawn on the vertical strip. Additional vertical and horizontal strips were adhered to the verso of the central rectangle on all four sides. Their ends and edges protrude at the top and bottom, extending the main support vertically by several millimeters. Some details at the edges of the composition, such as the lower part of Veronica’s foot in the bottom right corner, were drawn on the projecting segments of these underlying strips.

A copy of the Harvard drawing by a pupil in the Jordaens workshop has also survived.8


1 Xander van Eck, Clandestine Splendor: Paintings for the Catholic Church in the Dutch Republic (Zwolle, 2008), pp. 9–15.

2 Jacques Jordaens, Christ Carrying the Cross (Fig. 1). Oil on canvas. 239 × 174.5 cm. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, SK-A-4923. Nora De Poorter in Roger A. d’Hulst, Nora de Poorter, and Marc Vandenven, Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678), Antwerp: Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 1993), vol. 1, cat. A91, p. 279. Both Robert Schillemans, in Guus van den Hout and Robert Schillemans, Putti en Cherubijntjes, Het religieuze werk van Jacob de Wit (1695–1754) (Amsterdam, 1995), pp. 61–63, and Van Eck, pp. 123–27, discuss the paintings produced for Saint Francis Xavier. Schillemans (p. 62) questioned whether Jordaens’s Christ Carrying the Cross was intended for the high altar of the church because its dimensions differ from those of the other altarpieces that were displayed there on a rotating basis. Van Eck (pp. 124–25) suggested that it might have been installed in a different Jesuit church in Amsterdam, “De Zaaier,” which was closed in 1669, before it went to Saint Francis Xavier. It remained there and in the Neo-Gothic chapel built in 1881–83 on the site (now Singel 448) until 1969, when it was consigned by the Netherlands province of the Society of Jesus to Christie’s, London (sale, 5 December 1969, lot 100). Although the painting failed to sell then, it was successfully auctioned by Christie’s, London, on 29 March 1974, in lot 18, and remained on the art market until it was placed on long-term loan at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, in 1986, and then acquired by the museum in 1997.

3 Christian Tümpel in D’Hulst et al., p. 34.

4 My thanks to Penley Knipe for her help in discerning these revisions and describing the composite support of the drawing, which is discussed below.

5 Jacques Jordaens, Christ Carrying the Cross (Fig. 2). Black, red, and white chalk, brown ink, and brown wash. 306 × 260 mm. Moscow, Pushkin Museum, 7788; Roger D’Hulst, Jordaens drawings (Brussels, 1974), vol. 2, cat. A357, p. 425; Vadim Sadkov and Charles Dumas, eds., Netherlandish, Flemish and Dutch Drawings of the XVI–XVIII Centuries, Belgian and Dutch Drawings of the XIX–XX Centuries (Amsterdam, 2010), cat. 232, p. 156, repr. p. 157.

6 D’Hulst, vol. 2, cats. A358 and A359, pp. 425–26.

7 Michael Jaffé, “Reflections on the Jordaens Exhibition,” Bulletin, The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, vol. 13 (1969): 2–39, pp. 5–6; D’Hulst, vol. 1, p. 59.

8 D’Hulst, vol. 2, cat. C81, p. 546.


Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum Annual Report, 1933-1934 (Cambridge, MA, 1935), p. 22
  • Agnes Mongan, "A Jordaens Drawing", The Burlington Magazine (December 1939), vol. 75, no. 441, pp. 245-47, pp. 245-46
  • Agnes Mongan and Paul J. Sachs, Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, 1940), vol. 1, cat. no. 480, pp. 248-49, repr. vol. 2, fig. 247
  • Mortimer Brandt Gallery, Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), exh. cat., Mortimer Brandt Gallery (New York, 1940), cat. no. 10, n.p., repr.
  • Leo van Puyvelde, Jordaens, Elsevier (Brussels, 1953), p. 183 (n. 200)
  • An Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Drawings and Watercolors, checklist, Unpublished (1954), cat. no. 24, p. 6
  • Roger A. d'Hulst, De tekeningen van Jakob Jordaens : bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de XVIIe-eeuwse kunst in de zuidelijke Nederlanden, Paleis der Academiën (Brussels, 1956), cat. no. 187, pp. 397-98
  • Agnes Mongan, Memorial Exhibition: Works of Art from the Collection of Paul J. Sachs [1878-1965]: given and bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1965), p. 207
  • Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1965, 1966, p. 34
  • Michael Jaffé, Jacob Jordaens 1593-1678, exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, 1968), cat. no. 256, p. 218, repr. p. 379, fig. 250
  • Michael Jaffé, "Reflections on the Jordaens Exhibition", Bulletin, The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario, 1969), vol. 13, pp. 2-39, p. 6 (n. 3)
  • Highly Important Pictures by Old Masters, auct. cat., Christie's, London (London, December 5, 1969), under lot 100, p. 57
  • Roger A. d'Hulst, Jordaens drawings, Arcade Press (Brussels, 1974), vol. 2, cat. no. A356, pp. 423-425, and under cat. no. A357, p. 425, under cat. no. A358, p. 426, under cat. no. A359, p. 426, under cat. no. A360, p. 427, under cat. no. C81, p. 545, and under cat. no. C82, p. 547; repr. vol. 4, fig. 374
  • Old Master Paintings, auct. cat., The Leger Galleries, Ltd. (London, 1976), under cat. no. 8, n.p.
  • Konrad Oberhuber, European Master Drawings of Six Centuries from the Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Tokyo, 1979), cat. no. 45, n.p., repr. pl. 45
  • Noortje Bakker, "'Kruisdraging' van Jacob Jordaens op de Oude Kunst- en Antiekbeurs", Tableau (Sept.-Oct. 1981), vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 38-40, pp. 38 and 40 (n. 1), repr. p. 38
  • Italian, Dutch and Flemish Baroque Paintings, auct. cat., P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd. (London, 1984), under cat. no. 16, p. 34
  • Fine Old Master Drawings, auct. cat., Christie's, London (London, April 8, 1986), under lot 104, p. 60
  • Roger A. d'Hulst, "Jordaens Drawings: Supplement II", Master Drawings (Summer 1990), vol. XXVIII, no. 2, pp. 142-72, under cat. no. A356a, p. 161
  • Roger A. d'Hulst, Nora De Poorter, and Marc Vandenven, Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), exh. cat., ed. Hans Devisscher and Nora De Poorter, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Antwerp, 1993), vol. 1, under cat. no. A91, p. 280, repr. fig. A91C
  • Old Master Drawings, auct. cat., Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg (London, 9 July 2001), under lot 68, p. 41
  • Alain Tapié, Baroque. Vision Jésuite du Tintoret à Rubens, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen (Caen, 2003), under cat. no. 58, p. 326
  • Vadim Sadkov, Netherlandish, Flemish and Dutch Drawings of the XVI-XVIII Centuries, Belgian and Dutch Drawings of the XIX-XX Centuries, ed. Charles Dumas, Foundation for Cultural Inventory (Amsterdam, 2010), under cat. no. 232, p. 156
  • William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), p. 15, 23; cat. no. 50, pp. 176-178, repr. p. 177

Exhibition History

Subjects and Contexts

  • Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

Verification Level

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