This painting is by Abraham Janssens, a significant figure in Flemish art at the beginning of the 17th century.

Janssens was born in Antwerp and received his early training under the Flemish artist and collector Jan Snellinck.

Janssens’ mature style was much influenced by his travels in Italy, where he lived in Rome between 1597 and 1602. There he absorbed the lessons of Raphael and Caravaggio before returning to Antwerp in 1602. He soon established a reputation in his home country, where he became the most prominent painter until the return of Peter Paul Rubens from Italy in 1608.

An Allegory of Joy and Melancholy shows two figures, with joy represented by the young woman in the foreground and melancholy as the haggard older figure behind. The gilt tazza in the painting relates to the Ashmolean’s collection of Northern Renaissance metalwork, where comparable examples can be found. Similar items to the decanter held by the figure of joy feature in the museum’s extensive collection of Dutch and English glassware.

The Ashmolean holds works by other significant Flemish artists of the period, including Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and David Teniers the Younger. Janssens’ An Allegory of Joy and Melancholy now joins them there.

Provenance

Cockerton family, West London, 1846; by descent Belle Barker, London; by descent Nina Gaselee, Surrey (Stampa cartoon depicts the work at this address); by descent Iris Maclaren; by descent Jean GreerAt the time of inheriting the work, the painting had a


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