An artist in the Dutch Golden Age of painting, also part of the Baroque period, Jacob Pynas and his brother, Jan, were considered influential as Pre-Rembrandtists. That is, preceding the Dutch master painter, Rembrandt (1606 – 1669), who may have briefly been Jacob’s pupil. Jacob is noted as having been born in Haarlem, while his brother Jan is said to have been born in Alkmaar. They were active in Amsterdam, but it is also said they may have traveled to Italy.
The Grove Dictionary of Art notes their travels to Italy, as evidenced by their influence from Adam Elsheimer (1578 – 1610), a German painter active in Italy and the Italian Baroque painter Carlo Saraceni (1570 – 1620). It has been difficult to separate the work of Jacob from Jan, as on several pieces it is attributed to simply J. Pynas, and may have been collaborative. There are also several cases where works once thought to be Elsheimer’s, are now attributed to Pynas. This is definitely the case in a painting titled, Mercury and Herse, from 1618, now rightfully attributed to Pynas.
The piece exemplifies the use of brilliant landscape, characteristic of Elsheimer, but also Pynas, surrounding a mythological, religious or historical theme. This piece has been in the Uffizi Gallery since 1796, and contains several signature traits of Pynas, including classical structures in the landscape and a subtle coloring to atmospheric effect. This work, among other Pynas’ pieces, has been noted as influenced by the Landscape painter, Paul Bril (1554 – 1625). Kren and Marx, authors of the Web Gallery of Art, have noted Bril’s influence as further evidence that Pynas and his brother may have stayed in Rome, as Bril was active in the city, also in collaboration with Elsheimer.
Other works that may be exclusively attributed to Jacob Pynas, include several oil paintings and drawings; Landscape with Mercury and Battus, Mountain Landscape with Narcissus, Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, Sacrifice of Isaac, Sacrifice of Gideon, Christ and the Lawyer, Apollo and Daphne, The Good Samaritan, The Escape in Egypt and Landscape with Jonun, Minerve, Venus, Paris, and Love, among others.