Jacob Jordaens - The Bean KingOil, 1640, 242 × 300 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna



Description and interpretation of the famous painting'The Bean King' by Jacob Jordaens!

Jacob Jordaens - The Bean King

The warning slogan that towers above the picture seems to interest no one here: "Nil similius insano quam ebrius" - "Nothing resembles a madman more than a drunk man". On the contrary, the glass is being raised. For when the old man on the right side of the picture shouts "The king drinks", this applies to all those present.

What we see here is an old tradition that was celebrated on 6 January - Epiphany - in large parts of the Netherlands in the 17th century. For this, a bean is baked in the king cake, which is cut here on the table. Whoever finds them in his play becomes king. He may choose the most beautiful woman of the evening as queen. However, it appears that the lottery procedure applied in this case. Because the queen has pinned her destiny unmistakably to her shoulder. She is brightly illuminated next to the king and seems to find the spectacle not entirely frenetic. She leads the fork to the plate unsteadily, looks absent and also seems a little distant due to the light guidance. Besides the crown, it is equipped with all kinds of pearl jewellery. It looks much more authentic than the obese king with his crown of stiffened gold paper. Her enchantment is reminiscent of Rembrandt's Delila. 

The other "court offices" were also determined by lottery. Two of the lots are already lying on the ground carelessly: the "Hofmester" and the "Senger". Others are still characterized by attaching to the clothing. The man with the fish is a precutter, the vomiting drinker is a "physician". In this character Jordaens drives the lottery ad absurdum. In the middle of the picture we see a man raising the glass in the side view; behind it a fool-like age curling his face to the cheer. Some women try to make coquettish eye contact with the viewer. 

The mirror suggests other people, perhaps from the angle next to the viewer. The window also tells us that it is still light. Such a feast could last from noon to midnight. This also explains the presence of the children. One takes in the foreground just a sip from the glass, which a dog greedily envies. Presumably Jordaens family members and employees served as models here. In the painter he portrayed his father-in-law Adam van Noort. Under no circumstances should this be a defamation, but rather a loving recognition, for van Noort was also Jordaen's painter and teacher. The Fleming has addressed this topic at least six times; it can also be found under the title "The King Drinks". 

© the artinspector / alexandra tuschka