Hendrik van Balen

Dates1575 - 1632

Despite humble beginnings as the son of a dry goods merchant, Hendrik van Balen was probably well-educated, for on his death he left numerous books in different languages. He may have been trained by one of Antwerp's Italianate painters, or he may have absorbed the influence of Italian painting on a trip he took to Italy between 1595 and 1600. Van Balen became a master in Antwerp's Guild of Saint Luke around 1592; from 1602 he is recorded regularly, especially as a teacher. For thirty years he ran a successful studio, counting among his pupils Anthony van Dyck and Frans Snyders; three of his sons became painters.

Van Balen painted numerous large altarpieces, but he is best known for his cabinet pictures, often depicting mythological or allegorical subjects in which nudes lounge in paradise-like settings. He also painted landscapes, usually small in scale and painted on copper or oak. He often provided figures for landscapes by his friend Jan Brueghel the Elder, as well as for Jan Brueghel the Younger, Snyders, and Frans Francken. Van Balen's work has sometimes been ascribed to Jan the Elder.