Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Abraham Janssens

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Flemish painter, b. at Antwerp about 1573; d. probably in the same place about 1631. He is also known as Janssens Van Nuyssen, and several of his pictures are signed with this name, which it is believed he adopted from his mother's family with the object of distinguishing himself from other members of the Janssens family, contemporary artists. He was a pupil of Jan Snellinck in 1585, according to some writers, but it is believed that this date is a little too early, as, according to the accepted tradition, Janssens would then have been only twelve years old. The first date that we know for certain respecting him is that of his admission as a teaching master into the Guild of St. Luke, which was in 1601, and in the following year he married, and eventually had a family. One of his daughters, Anna, married Jan Breughel the younger, the son of "Velvet" Breughel, and the second of his sons, named Abraham like his father, became a painter, and was admitted a member of the Guild of Painters in 1636.

A story was started by Houbraken to the effect that Janssens was a bitter opponent of Rubens, but Houbraken's work is the only authority for this legend, and the author appears to have had a spite against Janssens, and to have said everything that was possible to injure his character. Janssens was a contemporary of Rubens, and a man who appears to have been very much respected in Antwerp, spoken of in terms of friendship and affection by other artists, and recognized as a man of great genius, taking a high position in the very first rank. It seems to be most unlikely that Houbraken's story is a truthful one, especially as there is no evidence whatever in other works to support it. The best of Janssens' pictures are to be seen at Antwerp, especially in the churches of the Carmelites and St. Charles, and in the cathedral, the painting of "The Entombment" in the Carmelite church being one of his very finest productions. There are three important paintings by him in the Antwerp Museum, two in the cathedral at Ghent, one in the cathedral at Bruges, a remarkable mythological scene representing Venus and Jupiter in Brunswick, and a fine picture of St. Cecilia at Cologne. Other galleries containing works by this important artist are those of Berlin, Brussels, Cassel, and Vienna. In at least two of his pictures he worked in collaboration with Snyders, the flowers and fruit in his picture of Pomona at Berlin, and the animals in his representation of Atalanta in the same gallery, having been painted by his friend. In splendour of colouring and in vigour of composition he was surpassed in his day only by Rubens, and was recognized in Antwerp as a man of profound talent and great skill. Many of his pictures were engraved.

HOUBRAKEN, De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche (Amsterdam, 1718); KRAMM, De Lerens en Werken der Hollandsche (Amsterdam, 1857); ROMBOUTS, Le Liggeren et autres Archives, etc. (Paris, 1864).

GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON