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A Family Group
  • Artist Jürgen (Juriaen) Ovens (German-Dutch, 1623 - 1678)
  • TitleA Family Group
  • Technique/MaterialOil on canvas
  • Dimensions194 x 257 cm
  • AcquisitionGift of Gustaf Werner, 1923
  • CategoryOil painting
  • Inventory NumberGKM 0746
  • Display StatusNot shown in the museum
Exhibition History
The Baroque painter Jürgen (Juriaen) Ovens was born in Schleswig-Holstein, but lived much of his life in Holland. He spent the 1640s in Amsterdam, where he was a pupil of Rembrandt. On his return home, he became court painter to the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein. During a later stay in Amsterdam in 1663, he received an unexpected commission. Govaert Flinck, also a former student of Rembrandt, had begun a painting for the newly built Town Hall (today the Royal Palace). When Flinck suddenly died, Rembrandt took over the commission. His painting was put up in 1662 but was taken down again, probably because the artist was asked to make some changes. It was never returned and the centre piece of The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis is now in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. Juriaen Ovens was given the commission to rapidly complete Govaert Flinck’s painting on the same subject. Since 1663, the large, dark canvas is displayed in a gallery in the monumental building.

With its vivid composition and chiaroscuro, this group portrait of an unknown family calls to mind Rembrandt’s and his students’ paintings from the 1640s. To avoid giving the picture too formal a character, Ovens has introduced a narrative element into the composition. The story is acted out in parkland, before the walls of an old castle. A nobleman has returned home from the hunt or a journey to be welcomed by his family. The gender roles are clear. The stately man’s attributes are his staff, sword, and fluttering red mantle, and he is accompanied by a greyhound, a horse, and a groom. His figure is emphasized by the architecture, and it is quite plain that he is the head of the family. His son rushes towards him, while his wife, elegantly dressed in expensive pink silks, gazes lovingly up at her husband as she puts an arm around her daughter. The little girl has picked flowers, which she is laying in her mother’s lap, as she glances out at the viewer.

When this portrait was acquired by the Museum, it was for some reason divided into two separate paintings, each with its own frame. The family was reunited when the canvases were rejoined in 1935.

Björn Fredlund from The Collection Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg 2014