Jan Frans Portaels is the founder of the Belgian Orientalist school. He travelled extensively in many exotic countries, especially in the Maghreb. He portrayed above all beautiful, elegant Arabic women. Our portrait of a small girl is exceptional within his artistic production.
About Jan Frans Portaels
Vilvoorde 1818 – 1895 Brussels (Schaarbeek)
His first name is often spelt in French: “Jean-François”.
Portrait painter, painter of genre, biblical and historical scenes.
Son of a rich brewer, who became the mayor of Jan Frans’ birthplace, Vilvoorde.
Pupil of the Neo-Classical painter François-Joseph Navez (1787 – 1869) at the Academy of Brussels.
in 1840 Portaels left for Paris where he perfectioned his artistic education with the melodramatic history painter Paul Delaroche (1797 – 1856). In 1842 he won the First Price of Rome.
Portaels travelled extensively in Italy, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Northern Africa (1844 – 1847) and Spain, but also in Hungary and even Norway: he made a lot of studies and designs that he would use later for his compositions.
He was the director of the Academy of Ghent from 1847 onwards.
In 1852 he married the daughter of his former master, François Navez.
Between 1858 and 1870 our painter thought many important future Belgian artists in his workshop. Among these the painters Théo van Rysselberghe, Emile Wauters, Léon Frédéric and Edouard Agneessens.
He lived and worked in Morocco between 1870 and 1874.
In 1878 he became the director of the Academy of Brussels.
About our painting
Portaels painted above all beautiful portraits of graceful, elegant Arabic women, especially from Tanger. This is one of the rare children’s portraits that he made. It is very interesting because the child has a much more natural pose than all his women’s portraits. It does share with them a certain romantic melancholy typical of that period and of the contemporary artistic aproach of the Orient.
Why should you buy this portrait?
Because it reminds of a period when the Orient was an exotic, innocent, mysterious and romantic place.
Because it is an unusally naturalistic looking child’s portrait by Portaels.