Painter, etcher, commercial artist, still-life painter, portrait painter, landscape painter, genre painter and draughtsman
Jan Baptist Weenix was born in 1621 in Amsterdam to the architect and painter Jan Jansz. Weines, from Enkhuizen, and Grietje Heremansr., from Amsterdam. After fruitless beginnings at a book dealer's and in a linen shop, he was given drawing instruction by Jan Micker (ca. 1598-1664), a brother of the painter Barent Micker (1615-1687), who was married to his sister Lysbeth Weenix. Afterwards he studied under Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651) in Utrecht, and finally for roughly two years in Amsterdam under Claes Moeyaert (1592/93-1655), whose style he obviously followed in 1641 in his earliest dated drawing, 'Landscape with Hermits', now in Vienna's Albertina. In the summer of 1639, at the age of eighteen, he married Justina de Hondecoeter from the well-known painting family. She was the daughter of Gillis, sister of Gijsbert and Niclaes, and aunt of Melchior de Hondecoeter (1636-1695). Due to his early marriage and the birth of a son - Jan Weenix (1641/42-1719), who would later also be a famous painter - he was only able to travel to Italy after October 1642. After stopping in Rotterdam, in March 1643 he probably passed through Rouen's harbour, where he deposited paintings. In Rome he moved in the circle of the Schildersbent, the Netherlandish artists' association, under the nickname "Ratel" (Rattle), given him on account of a speech defect. He entered the service of the art-loving prince Camillo Pamphili, who made payments to the artist in 1645 and 1646 and recommended him to his uncle, Giovanni Battista Pamphili, who had been Pope Innocent X since 1644. In honour of this patron, beginning in 1645/46 the painter signed his works with "Gio[vanni] Batt[ist]a Weenix". In June 1646 he is still documented in Rome, but by June of the following year he was back in Amsterdam. He moved to Utrecht, where his brother-in-law Gijsbert de Hondecoeter (1604-1653) lived. In 1649, together with Willem de Heusch (1625-1692), Cornelis van Poelenburgh (ca. 1593-1667), and Jan Both, he served as director of the city's painters' guild. Baron Hermann van Wyttenhorst owned a dog picture by Weenix, dated 1653, as well as a work produced in collaboration with Jan Both and Nicolaus Knüpfer. After the death of Gijsbert de Hondecoeter, he took in his son Melchior. He was still living in Utrecht in 1655, and by 1656 he had moved into Huis ter Mey, a castle in the village of De Haar, near Utrecht, no longer standing. There, on 20 October 1658, he completed his last dated painting, the 'Peasants in Front of a Tavern' (The Hague, Mauritshuis), which was highly regarded in the eighteenth century. He died in late 1658 or early 1659. The inventory of his estate from 25 April 1659 lists more than a hundred paintings and countless drawings and graphics, which were sold to satisfy his creditors. His widow moved back to Utrecht, where she died in 1662. Jan Baptist Weenix exhibited a rare versatility for a Dutch painter. He painted Italian-style landscapes, harbour scenes with rich staffage, hunting still lifes, animal pieces and portraits. It is not uncommon to see the various genres combined in his pictures. A few works with two or more signatures document his collaboration with Jan Asselijn, Nicolaes Berchem, Jan Both, Bartholomeus van der Helst and Nicolaus Knüpfer. His style has been associated with that of Bloemaert, Moeyaert, Rembrandt, Van Laer and Berchem, yet with his broad, fluid application of pigment and his occasionally bold compositions he appears to be highly independent. His drawings present landscape and architectural motifs of Italian and Dutch provenance. A few etchings attributed to him depict cows in the manner of Berchem. Houbraken mentions as his pupils his two sons Jan and Gillis Weenix, his nephew Melchior de Hondecoeter and Nicolaes Berchem, who may have been his cousin.