Sphinx Fine Art
Jacob de Backer lived only to the age of thirty, and despite a short period of productivity, there are a relatively high number of works ascribed to him. According to the Flemish biographer Karel van Mander (1548-1606), de Backer was abandoned by his father as a young boy. He then worked in the studio of Antonio van Palermo (1503/13-before 1589) and later entered the workshop of Hendrick van Steenwijck the Elder (1550-1603). Van Mander claimed that de Backer’s early death was caused by the strenuous labour imposed on the young artist in van Palermo’s studio.
Little is known about the artist’s training, though it seems that he never became a master in the Guild of St. Luke. His work is evidently influenced by the Mannerism of Rome and Florence, in particular by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) and his generation, but there is no real evidence that de Backer ever visited Italy. Many of his compositions have complex allegorical subjects, which may indicate that he had a humanistic education and that his clientele was drawn from the Antwerp intelligentsia.