Ovens should be considered as a Dutch painter, for it was in the Dutch Republic that he trained as a painter and that he lived the major part of his life. He was born in North Frisia, which was then part of Denmark, now of Germany.
Ovens is said to have been a pupil of Rembrandt, although he seems to have been stronger influenced by Jan Lievens.
About Jürgen Ovens
Danish painter from North Frisia (today part of Germany)
Tönning 1623 – 1678 Friedrichstadt
Also known as Jur(r)iaen or Jurian Ovens.
Painter of portraits and of history (religious and mythological) subjects.
Ovens was a pupil of Rembrandt according to Arnold Houbraken, the biographer of Dutch contemporary painters, in his ‘De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen’ from 1718.
Painters from Northern Germany traditionally completed their training in Holland, while most painters from Southern Germany went to Italy.
North Frisia, the northernmost part of Frisia, is today part of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Until 1864 it belonged to the Danish Duchy of Schleswig or Southern Jutland.
Tönning and Frederiksstad (Friedrichstadt’s original Danish name) lay today in Germany, but belonged in those days to Denmark. This explains why Ovens is regularly called a German painter, while the Danes consider him of course as a Danish painter. But artistically, stylistically and spiritually one should see him as a Dutch painter.
Ovens lived and worked in North Frisia and in Amsterdam:
- Between 1639/40 and 1651 he lived in Amsterdam, where he may have studied under Rembrandt. As a painter, however, he was far more influenced by Jan Lievens and by Flemish artists such as van Dyck, Rubens and Jordaens. He gained a reputation in the Netherlands as a fine portrait artist.
- From 1652 until 1657 he was at the service of Duke Frederick III of Holstein-Gottorp (1597 – 1659); in 1654 Ovens spent a few weeks in Stockholm to paint three large pictures of the festivities of the marriage between the Swedish king Charles X Gustav and Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp.
- In 1657 Ovens returned to Amsterdam because Swedish troops had invaded Holstein that year (Sweden was to win the Dano-Swedish war of 1657/58). Ovens acquired citizenship of Amsterdam in order to receive official city commissions, as the rules of the guilds were very strict. He cooperated here with Govaert Flinck (1615 – 1660), another pupil of Rembrandt. Flinck was also a native from a “divided” region. He was born in Cleves, today a German town in the Lower Rhine region. But in those days the population spoke Dutch and during the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648) it fell under the control of the Dutch Republic.
During this stay our painter also visited Flanders and England.
- Ovens returned to his fatherland in 1663 at the instruction of Christian Albert, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. He settled in Frederiksstad (today the German town of Friedrichstadt). It was founded by Dutch Mennonite and Remonstrant settlers in order of Duke Frederick III to develop sea trade. Because of its Dutch houses the town is still known as “Die Holländerstadt”.
- From 1674 to 1675 Ovens lived again in Holland.
- He returned to Friedrichstadt and remained here until his death in 1678. Ovens was known as one of its richest inhabitants, who had an enormous collection of paintings, including a van Dijck and a Jordaens.
About our painting
According to Professor Sumowski our painting dates from the late 1650s.
Between 1657 and 1663 Ovens lived in Amsterdam. But he is also known to have visited Flanders and England.
About Govaert Flinck, Rembrandt, Jürgen Ovens and their Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis
In 1659 Govaert Flinck was asked by the city council of Amsterdam to paint a huge lunette painting (five-by-five metres) to make the bare gallery of the City Hall look more festive for the visit of Amalia van Solms and the Orange family.
He painted a cheap watercolour painting which he would then later replace by a permanent oil version. Its subject was the Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis at the start of the Batavian rebellion against the Romans (69-70 AD).
After Flinck’s sudden death in 1660 Rembrandt was asked to paint his version in 1661-62. It hung in the gallery for just one year, for it was refused by the city council. In order to sell his painting Rembrandt, who was in financial difficulties, cut the huge canvas to a quarter of its original size and partly repainted it. Today it hangs in the National Museum in Stockholm.
With an upcoming episcopal visit this time the city council was again confronted with an empty gallery in its city hall and with very little time. They therefore asked Jürgen Ovens in 1662 to touch up Flinck’s original watercolour version. He did so in four days: he added some new figures and coloured some of the darker existing ones. Due to a lack of funds this patched up version was never replaced and it still hangs in its original position.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is such a humane portrait: an ode to grandmotherly love.