ORLEY, Jan van
(b. 1665, Brussel, d. 1735, Brussel)


Flemish painter, printmaker and designer of tapestries. He was one of the major figures of Flemish tapestry design in the late 17th and early 18th century. He was part of a family which was a leading artistic dynasty and the profession was passed on from father to son over the centuries. Bernaert van Orley was the most famous scion of the family.

Jan van Orley was the younger brother of Richard van Orley (1663-1732) who was a prominent engraver and painter. He trained with his father Pieter (1638-after 1708), who was a landscape artist and miniaturist. Jan van Orley started his career as a miniaturist.

In 1695, the French artillery bombardment, known as the Bombardment of Brussels, caused the destruction of a third of the buildings in Brussels, including civil and religious buildings. The rebuilding led to many commissions for artists to replace destroyed artworks.

Jan van Orley and Victor Honoré Janssens were the principal history painters in Brussels who benefited from this situation. Jan van Orley succeeded in securing commissions for about 30 paintings for the decoration of religious and civic buildings. Another painter who received many commissions to redecorate the Brussels churches was Zeger Jacob van Helmont and some works of van Helmont were earlier misattributed to Jan van Orley.

Jan van Orley was a prolific artist and left an extensive oeuvre in a wide variety of techniques including painting, drawing, printmaking and tapestry design. His principal subjects are history and mythology. He is regarded as one of the last important Flemish tapestry designers. In the early 1700s Jan van Orley and Augustin Coppens were the leading team of tapestry designers for the Reydams - Leyniers tapestry workshop in Brussels. The two artists often collaborated on tapestry cartoons with Coppens designing the landscapes and Jan van Orley adding the staffage. The pair jointly created a neo-Baroque style for the Brussels workshops.