BALEN, Hendrick van
(b. 1575, Antwerpen, d. 1632, Antwerpen)


Flemish painter and stained-glass designer, active mainly in his native Antwerp. His approximate date of birth can be deduced from a document dated 28 August 1618, in which he gives his age as 43. His father was a merchant of oil, candles and groceries; yet it seems likely that Hendrick's formal education was good, as on his death he left a considerable number of books in different languages. He became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in 1592-93. Van Mander stated that Adam van Noort was van Balen's teacher; the name of Marten de Vos has also been suggested. Between 1595 and 1600 van Balen travelled to Italy, presumably visiting Rome, Venice and other cities. Although there is no record of his travels, on his return to Antwerp he became a member of the Guild of the Romanists, so it is clear he had visited Rome. Once back in Antwerp, van Balen collaborated with Abel Grimmer on a View of Antwerp (1600; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp), depicting God, Christ and the Virgin in clouds above Grimmer's cityscape. From 1602 onwards van Balen's name appears regularly in the records of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke, especially as a teacher.

He married in 1605, and three of his sons became painters: Jan van Balen (1611-1654), Gaspard van Balen (1615-1641) and Hendrik van Balen II (1623-1661). His daughter Maria married Theodoor van Thulden. Van Balen ran a successful studio for 30 years and had many pupils, including Anthony van Dyck in 1609 (the same year he was head dean of the Guild). In 1613 he travelled to the northern Netherlands with Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder; otherwise he remained in Antwerp.

At the outset of his career, van Balen executed a number of large altarpieces (e.g. the Resurrection, Antwerp, St Jacobskerk), and these reflect the Romanist influence of Adam van Noort. His later altarpieces, with richer and more subtle colouring, were evidently painted after van Dyck joined his studio. It is, however, for cabinet pictures, often of mythological subjects, that van Balen is best known, for example Diana Transforming Actaeon into a Stag (c. 1605, Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest). Other popular subjects were the Four Elements, the Banquet of the Gods and the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. These scenes allowed the artist to display his attractive nudes in paradisaical settings.

Van Balen often collaborated with other artists on such works, most frequently with his friend Jan Brueghel the Elder, for whom he provided figures for landscapes and for fruit and flower garlands. Van Balen also worked with Joos de Momper, Lucas van Uden, Jan Wildens, Frans Snyders and, after the death of Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Younger.

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