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Jacob de Backer

ca. 1560–1590/91


Very little is known of Flemish painter Jacob de Backer. With no set birthdate or death date, de Backer is thought to have lived from around 1555 to 1585. He is believed to have lived all of his life in Antwerp. Flemish biographer Karel van Mander wrote that de Backer was born to a painter who abandoned him as a child. Van Mander then describes that he worked for a large portion of his life in the studio of painter and art dealer Antonio van Palermo until moving to the workshop of Hendrick van Steenwijck the Elder. Van Mander even hypothesizes that it was the overwork de Backer experienced while under van Palermo that led to his premature death.

Though de Backer has a large body of work attributed to him, only three pieces have been traced back with absolute certainty to the artist. The others were credited on the basis of technique and style displayed in the original three or through contemporary biographies that describe his extended oeuvre. These works number in the hundreds and typically depict allegorical themes in the Mannerist style of Rome and Florence, though there is no indication that de Backer ever traveled to those places. De Backer collaborated with Jan Brueghel the Elder to create The Judgement of Midas.

By Saffron Sener