The image shows a family gathered in the garden of a suburban residence. Beautiful garden with a fountain is an allusion to the jardin d'amour - the Garden of Love, medieval motive which thanks to a combination of symbols becomes a representation and substitute of Eden. Painter arranged the figures in a natural way, gazing towards the viewer, especially a little boy in the foreground, who turns to see the guest. The composition is based on the diagonal line, which in order to obtain depth intersect the vertical elements and further underlined areas of light and shadow. Light comes frontally to emphasize the central figure of the proud mother of the family.
According to signature, the painting was created by the artist shortly after his arrival to Spain in 1679. It is one of two versions of the composition preserved, the other one, previously dated 1680, is in Prado. Despite the efforts of Juan Ramón Sánchez del Peral y López to force the earlier dating of the Prado's version (El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2006, p. 128), there are certain details which proofs that the Warsaw's painting is the original verison of the composition, that was remodelled after the death of one of the protagonists. It is the elder man dressed in black in the right corner at the door. The man in his fifties and in attire typical for older generation that was fashionable in 1640s to 1650s is probably a husband of richly dressed lady in the center. This man is not present in the Prado's version, while the younger man, playing the guitar and hidden behind the husband in Warsaw's painting replaced the deceased in Prado's version. It seems that his death also marked the features of the sitting lady. Her face is sad and marked by grief in Prado's painting. The younger man with consolable features and strongly resembling the sitting woman, a brother probably, is now the head of the family.
The attires of the protagonists are typically Spanish for the period. Also the features are more likely to represent people from the south, possibly representatives of a merchant family of Dupont from Tournai well integrated into the Spanish society of the epoch.
The artist portrayed himself with a palette at the window in upper center in the act of writing his signature. The signature below the window states Van Kessel 1679 Pinxit Matriti with the place of execution also indicated (Madrid). According to Acisclo Antonio Palomino de Castro y Velasco and his An account of the lives and works of the most eminent Spanish painters ... published in 1739, the artist arrived to Spain in 1680 and was employed by his countryman. For his protector, he painted "a large Family-piece (...) representing him to the life with his wife and children (...) and in it, himself, likewise drawn to the life, putting his head out of a window, to write his name on the wall (pp. 161-162).
The painting is filled with symbols. Servants carrying various meals is a personification of joy and abundance. Conjugal love is represented by pairs of birds and young brides who hold their hands in solemn shake. They may be the parents of two children portrayed at the bottom of the scene. Horse is associated with prudence, loyalty, fidelity and zeal, in addition to pride, physical strength and power, doves are symbol of peace, hollyhocks symbolize fertility and sweetness, while cranes could have a heraldic meaning, they symbolize good governance and prudence to direct vassals and representing the ecstatic and transcendent life. Fidelity would be another virtue that adorns good families. Thus, the old man with the dog at his feet could be related to marital virtues like loyalty and companionship.
Colors and technique are typical for the Flemish painting of the period while depth of characteristic, bordering on caricature, is typical for contemporary Spanish painting and its grotesque naturalism.
The painting was purchased in 1956 from private collection and included in the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw under the number 211910.
oil on canvas, 1679, 126 × 167 cm (49.6 × 65.7 in), inventory number M.Ob.813, currently not on permanent display, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
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