David Teniers the Younger or David Teniers II was a Flemish Baroque painter, printmaker, draughtsman, miniaturist painter, staffage painter, copyist and art curator. He was an extremely versatile artist known for his prolific output. He was an innovator in a wide range of genres such as history painting, genre painting, landscape painting, portrait and still life. He is now best remembered as the leading Flemish genre painter of his day. Teniers is particularly known for developing the peasant genre, the tavern scene, pictures of collections and scenes with alchemists and physicians.
He was court painter and the curator of the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, the art-loving Governor General of the Habsburg Netherlands. He created a printed catalogue of the collections of the Archduke. He was the founder of the Antwerp Academy, where young artists were trained to draw and sculpt in the hope of reviving Flemish art after its decline following the death of the leading Flemish artists Rubens and Anthony van Dyck in the early 1640s. He influenced the next generation of Northern genre painters as well as French Rococo painters such as Antoine Watteau.
David Teniers the Younger was born in Antwerp as the son of David Teniers the Elder and Dymphna de Wilde. His father was a painter of altarpieces and small-scale cabinet paintings. Three of his brothers also became painters: Juliaan III (1616–1679), Theodoor (1619–1697) and Abraham (1629–1670). The work of his two oldest brothers is virtually unknown. The work of his youngest brother Abraham was very close to David's own.
From 1626 David the younger studied under his father. A collaborator of his father early on in his career, the father and son pair created together a series of twelve panels recounting stories from Torquato Tasso's epic Gerusalemme Liberata (Museo del Prado, Madrid). His father was frequently in financial straits and his debts landed him occasionally in jail. David the younger had to make copies of old masters in order to support the family. In 1632–33 he was registered as 'wijnmeester' (i.e. the son of a master) in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke.
A David Teniers is recorded in the Antwerp records as having been issued in 1635 a passport to visit Paris. The artist likely also travelled to England as on 29 December 1635 of the same year he signed in Dover a contract with the Antwerp art dealer Chrisostomos van Immerseel, then resident in England.
Rubens received in 1636 a commission from the Spanish king Philip IV of Spain to create a series of mythological paintings to decorate the Torre de la Parada, a hunting lodge of the king near Madrid. The mythological scenes depicted in the series were largely based on the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Rubens realized this important commission with the assistance of a large number of Antwerp painters such as Jacob Jordaens, Cornelis de Vos, Jan Cossiers, Peter Snayers, Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert, Theodoor van Thulden, Jan Boeckhorst, Peeter Symons, Jacob Peter Gowy and others, who worked after Rubens' modellos. Teniers was also invited to participate in this project and make a picture after Rubens' design. That painting is considered lost.
Teniers married into the famous Brueghel artist family when Anna Brueghel, daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder, became his wife on 22 July 1637. Rubens, who had been the guardian of Anna Brueghel after her father’s death, was a witness at the wedding. Through his marriage Teniers was able to cement a close relationship with Rubens who had been a good friend and frequent collaborator with his wife's father. This is borne out by the fact that at the baptism of the first of the couple's seven children David Teniers III, Rubens' second wife, Hélène Fourment was the godmother. Around this time Teniers started to gain a reputation as an artist and he received many commissions. The Guild of St George (Oude Voetboog Guild), a local militia in Antwerp, commissioned a group portrait in 1643 (Hermitage Museum).
Teniers was a dean of the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1644–1645. When Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria became the Governor General of the Southern Netherlands in 1647, the Archduke soon became an important patron of Teniers. The success went to the artist's head. He claimed that his grandfather Julian Taisnier, who had moved from Ath (now located in the Walloon province of Hainaut) to Antwerp in the 16th century had been from a family that had been entitled to bear a coat of arms. Teniers started to use this coat of arms consisting of a croaching bear on a field of gold encircled by three green acorns. His brother-in-law Jan Baptist Borrekens reported him and Teniers was prohibited from using the coat of arms.
Around 1650 Teniers moved to Brussels to formally enter into the service of the Archduke as a "pintor de cámara" (court painter). The Archduke asked him to be the keeper of the art gallery he had set up in his palace in Brussels. In that position he succeeded the Antwerp painter Jan van den Hoecke who had earlier worked in Vienna for the Archduke. One of Teniers's key tasks in this position was to look after and enlarge the Archducal collection. Teniers put together a collection for the art gallery which included his own work and that of other artists, which he selected. He was involved in the purchase of a large number of Italian, and especially Venetian, masterpieces from the confiscated collections of Charles I of England and his Jacobite supporters. One of his most important successes was the acquisition of the major part (about 400 paintings) of the collection owned by James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton, who had been a close associate and favorite of the English King and was, like the King, executed in 1649. The Conde de Fuensaldaña, then acting as Leopold Wilhelm's lieutenant in the Southern Netherlands, also sent Teniers to England in 1651 to purchase paintings at the Pembroke and presumably other sales. The collection of the Archduke grew to incorporate about 1,300 works, mainly of leading Italian artists such as Raphael, Giorgione, Veronese and Titian (15 works by this artist alone) as well as of famous Northern artists such as Hans Holbein the Younger, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Jan van Eyck. The collection became the foundation and nucleus of the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
The Archduke also promoted Teniers's art by giving his compositions to other European rulers as presents. As a result, many of these rulers also became patrons of the artist. The bishop of Ghent Anthonius Triest, the Stadtholder Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange, Christina, Queen of Sweden, William II, Prince of Orange and Philip IV of Spain were among his patrons. Only king Louis XIV of France does not seem to have liked Teniers's work. According to a story, when presented with a peasant scene by Teniers the French king asked for the 'magots' ('baboons') to be removed from his sight as soon as possible.
Teniers bought a house close to the Brussels court and was promoted in 1655 to 'camerdiender' or 'ayuda de cámara' (chamberlain) by the Archduke. It was most unusual for a painter to serve as chamberlain at the Spanish court. In fact, there was only one other case, which dates from the same time: that of Velázquez, whose aim was also to be elevated to the nobility. Not long after the Archduke resigned from his position as Governor General of the Spanish Netherlands and returned to Vienna with his large art collection. A Flemish priest, who was also a gifted still life painter, Jan Anton van der Baren, moved with Leopold Wilhelm from Brussels to Vienna where he was the successor of Teniers as the director of the archducal gallery in Vienna. The new Governor General of the Spanish Netherlands, Don Juan of Austria continued the support for the artist that he had enjoyed from his predecessor the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. The early Flemish biographer Cornelis de Bie reports in his Het Gulden Cabinet published in 1662 that Don Juan was an amateur artist who regularly asked Teniers to give him instructions in art. Don Juan was so taken by Teniers that he even drew a portrait of Teniers son.
Teniers's wife died on 11 May 1656. On 21 October of the same year the artist remarried. His second wife was Isabella de Fren, the 32-year-old daughter of Andries de Fren, secretary of the Council of Brabant. It has been suggested that Teniers's main motive for marrying the 'spinster' was her rather elevated position in society. His second wife also brought him a large dowry. The couple had four children, two sons and two boys. His second wife's attitude to Teniers's children from his first marriage would later divide the family in legal battles. Teniers petitioned the king of Spain to be admitted to the aristocracy but gave up when the condition imposed was that he should give up painting for money.
In 1660 Teniers's Theatrum Pictorium was published in Brussels. When Don Juan of Austria ended his term as Governor General of the Southern Netherlands in January 1659, Teniers appears to have withdrawn from active court duty. He purchased from the husband of Hélène Fourment, the widow of Rubens, a country estate called the 'Drij Toren' ('Three towers') located in Perk, in the environs of Brussels and Vilvoorde. Teniers did not cut his links with Antwerp while living and working in Brussels. Teniers maintained close contacts with artists as well as the influential art dealers in Antwerp. In particular; the firm of Matthijs Musson was instrumental in building Teniers's international reputation.
At the behest of his Antwerp colleagues of the Guild of Saint Luke, Teniers became the driving force behind the foundation of the Academy in Antwerp, only the second of such type of institution in Europe after the one in Paris. The artist used his connections and sent his son David to Madrid to assist in the negotiation to successfully obtain the required licence from the Spanish King. This involved Teniers's son presenting a very expensive golden watch to one of the courtiers who could influence the Spanish King's decision on the matter. As soon as he received the royal charter creating the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Teniers travelled with it from Brussels to Antwerp and celebrated the accomplishment with a big banquet in the Schilderskamer of the Guild of St. Luke. When in 1674 the existence of the Academy was threatened he again used his influence at the Spanish court to save the institution.
As a court painter Teniers was not required to become member of a local guild. Nevertheless, he became a member of the Brussels Guild of Saint Luke in 1675. In his later years Teniers was also active as an art dealer and he organised art auctions. This brought him into conflict with his fellow artists who started proceedings to prohibit him from holding an auction in 1683. Teniers argued that he needed the proceeds of the auction because his children were suing him for their mother's part of her estate. The matter was finally settled between the parties themselves. In his final years he lost his second wife and was involved in further lawsuits over her estate with the two surviving children of his second wife. There is evidence that in these years he suffered a decline in his prosperity and that his output was diminished.
On 25 April 1690 David Teniers died in Brussels.
His pupils included his son David, Ferdinand Apshoven the Younger, Thomas van Apshoven, Jan de Froey, Aert Maes, Abraham Teniers, and Aert van Waes. Gillis van Tilborgh is also presumed to have studied under Teniers.