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Flemish research centre

Autumn lectures

Since 2012, the Flemish Research Centre for the Arts in the Burgundian Netherlands has organised a series of lectures/talks. Via these talks we present relevant and recent research related to the Burgundian Netherlands to locals from Bruges.

The lectures are held on a Thursday at 3.00 p.m. in the Vriendenzaal of Musea Brugge at Dijver 12, 8000 Bruges. The lectures are free of charge. You do not need to register. For all upcoming lectures, please visit the calendar.

Autumn lectures 2019

Lezing Antoinede Lonhy rondtrekkendschilder Afbeelding geencontvangen

12 September 2019


Lecture in French, by Prof. Dr. Frederic Elsig, Université de Genève

Recently rediscovered, Antoine de Lonhy is an exemplary case of the role that connoisseurship must play in art history. Active between about 1445 and 1480, he distinguished himself by his technical versatility (illumination, painting, stained glass and patterns for embroidery and sculpture) and by his unique itinerary which can be divided into three periods. First, based in Chalon-sur-Saône, he worked for major sponsors such as Nicolas Rolin (1446) and Jean Germain (1449). Then, he settled in Toulouse from about 1454 to 1462 and made several stays in Barcelona, where he was known for his innovative style, linked to the prestige of the Duchy of Burgundy, and for his know-how as a glassmaker. Finally, he settled in Avigliana in the Duchy of Savoy, where he had a profound impact on local production. The conference will seek to trace the stylistic development of his language throughout his career.

Lezing Vlaamseinvloedenopde Franseschilderkunst Afbeeldingc Museedu Louvre Large

24 oktober 2019

Lecture in English by Sophie Caron, Département des Peintures, Musée du Louvre

A panel representing an Assumption of beautiful quality was unknown even to scholars until its recent acquisition by the Louvre: it is now the starting point of new considerations on circulations of painters and models between Northern Europe, Bourgogne and the South of France. Indeed, Flemish models were traditionally used by French painters, but at the end of the 15th century, we can observe in the production of artists such as the famous Changenet family members (active between Dijon and Avignon) a new attention towards more recent models from Hugo van der Goes and Geertgen tot Sint Jans. We will try to explain how their innovations deeply inspired those painters active between Bourgogne and Provence in terms of iconography and style.

Lezing Bartolome Bermejo Afbeelding geencontvangen

28 november 2019
Lecture in English by
Prof. Dr. Nicola Jennings, Courtauld Institute, Londen

Bartolomé Bermejo (ca. 1440 – ca. 1501) is widely considered to be the most inventive and technically-skilled Spanish painter of the fifteenth century. Despite this, his work received scant recognition until the end of last year when the first monographic exhibition of his paintings opened at the Prado. Many questions about Bermejo’s artistic trajectory subsist, not least where he learnt to paint works such as the magnificent Piedad Desplà in oil like a Flemish master. In this paper I will discuss the latest findings by scholars and conservators and consider how these help us to answer some of the ‘known unknowns’ about this intriguing artist.

Autumn lectures 2012 - 2018


20 September 2018, Prof Dr Jelle Haemers, KUL, Over de 'verderfelijke' ambitie en de 'ridderlijke' deugden van Lodewijk van Gruuthuse, de in ongenade gevallen beschermengel van de Bourgondische dynastie. (About the 'pernicious’ ambition and ‘chivalrous’ virtues of Louis of Gruuthuse, the Burgundian dynasty guardian angel who fell out of favour.)

At the peak of his political career during the reign of Mary of Burgundy, Louis of Gruuthuse acted as the guardian angel of the Burgundian dynasty. Not a single knight could enter the duchess’ rooms without the consent of the Bruges nobleman. However, soon afterwards, the tide turned. During the reign of Maximilian of Austria, Louis was imprisoned and the Order of the Golden Fleece reproached him for the ‘pernicious ambition’ which he had shown in the preceding years. In this talk Jelle Haemers considers how things got to that stage: Why did the Burgundian dynasty treat Louis like a fallen angel and how did the nobleman defend himself? And so, he sketches a shocking picture of the political history of 15th century Bruges and contextualises Louis’ remarkable life in the general history of the Burgundian Netherlands.

18 October 2018, Prof Dr Frederick Buylaert, UGent, Lodewijk van Gruuthuse en zijn sociaal milieu: tussen adel en stad in de vijftiende eeuw" (Louis van Gruuthuse and his social circle: the nobility and the city in the fifteenth century)

As a well-known bibliophile and prominent politician in the Flemish Civil War of the 1480s, Louis of Gruuthuse is undoubtedly the most well-known nobleman of the fifteenth century County of Flanders. This talk considers not so much the exceptional cultural and political role of this nobleman as the question as to how we should depict the social environment from which he came and the extent to which he was typical or atypical of that environment. From an economic and social perspective we will see that Louis of Gruuthuse embodies many of the great developments of the Late Middle Ages because, as a prominent member of the Flemish nobility, he later operated more explicitly in a municipal and international context.

22 November 2018, Inge Geysen, Musea Brugge, Gesloten wegens (on)voorziene omstandigheden. De restauratie van het Gruuthusepaleis (Closed due to foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. The restoration of Gruuthusepaleis (The Gruuthuse Palace))

In September 2014, Gruuthusepaleis disappeared behind a mass of scaffolding and covers and was closed for overdue restoration. The roofs, gutters, woodwork, and windows were in particular need of attention. The splendid Reie gable had long been due for a clean. Indoors, too, several operations were planned, including on a few floors. Yet as is the case on any site, a number of ‘unforeseen circumstances’ arose. Some of them required far-reaching decisions.

This talk includes a lot of visual material and gives a summary of the completed restoration work. The speaker will give more details on a number of elements, such as the renewal of the Belvedere Tower. Louis Delacenserie, the city architect who restored Gruuthusepaleis at the end of the 19th century, will get plenty of coverage during this talk.

11/1/2018, Anne van Oosterwijk, Groeningemuseum and Curator of Pieter Pourbus en de vergeten meesters, Meekijken over de schouder van de meester. Studie van (onder)tekeningen bij Brugse zestiende-eeuwse meesters. (Pieter Pourbus and the forgotten masters, Looking over the master’s shoulder. Study of the base sketches or sketches with sixteenth century Bruges masters.)

A considerable number of sketches by Pieter Pourbus have been preserved and, in a number of cases, these can still be linked to existing paintings. Study of the sketches and paintings can be supplemented by research into the base sketch. The use of infrared reflectography technology makes it possible to register and study the preparatory sketch on the primed panel. For the exhibition ‘Pieter Pourbus and the forgotten masters’, the works of Pieter Pourbus have been studied systematically for the first time using this method, which has brought to light lots of new information about his work methods and his apprenticeship. Works of art by the Claeissens family have also been examined and the results of this research have laid the foundation for reconstructing these works. During the talk, Anne van Oosterwijk elucidates the new findings using lots of visual material.

25/1/2018, Stephan Kemperdick, Gemäldegalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, France, Flanders, Jean Fouquet

Jean Fouquet (approx 1420 – approx 1480) is certainly the most important French painter of the Late Middle Ages and early modern times. His works are characterized by a unique blend of elements derived from French traditions, Italian early Renaissance, and the Flemish Primitives. The most obvious ones are his Italian inspiration, acquired by Fouquet during his stay in Rome around 1445, which made him the first in Northern Europe to depict classic architecture and renaissance putti and construct correct perspective views.

It has also long been recognized that the novelties of Flemish painting of the generation of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden also influenced Fouquet. He seems to have learned it early in his career, before he went to Italy. Usually, his works are compared to those of Jan van Eyck. However, it seems that there are much more, and deeper connections with the art of Rogier van der Weyden. In this lecture the different aspects of Fouquet’s reception of Flemish Primitive painting will be analysed.

8/2/2018, Hanno Wijsman, Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT-CNRS), Paris, De Boekenminnende elite in laat-middeleeuws Vlaanderen: handschriften en gedrukte boeken (The book-loving elite in late medieval Flanders: manuscripts and printed books)

Illustrated manuscripts with vernacular texts were drafted in the Late Middle Ages especially for the noble elite. In Flanders the nobility developed a great love of books at the court of the Burgundian dukes in the second half of the fifteenth century. Various changes also took place at that time: Some members of the municipal elites started to follow the nobility and also ordered illustrated manuscripts; moreover, from the 1470s onwards, illustrated books were printed for the first time, in which the illustration was applied either by hand or as wood carvings (in colour or otherwise).
This talk will sketch a richly illustrated picture of these magnificent bibliophile objects and elucidate the libraries of a number of book owners, especially from Bruges.


02.02.2017, Robert Jacob, Université de Liège and Université Saint Louis Bruxelles & Centre national de la recherche scientifique, France, Images de la justice et éthique du juge en Occident (The art of law and ethics in the West)


10.11.2016, Valérie Hayaert, Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la Justice, Paris, Transparent blindfolds of Lady Justice

One of the most disputed questions about representing Lady Justice is that of her blindfold. Lack of sight is problematic: Is it a sign of disability or a token of impartiality? The act of blindfolding Lady Justice is a paradoxical gesture and, as such, deserves a detailed analysis. Her blindness is the result of an emblematic process: The inherent ambiguity of the blindfold shows that any blindfolded allegory taken in isolation can accommodate several textual interpretations which can effectively turn into a different emblem according to the will of an active and interpreting viewer, be he or she the author of a sculpture or its beholder. The paradoxical nature of the blindfold is very productive: Is it a sign of blindness? A token of impartiality? A necessary avoidance of lucidity? A moment of forgetfulness of the evidence put before the eyes? A mark of ecstasy? A shameful stigma? A trick? A game? A mark of derision? This list of questions shows that there are several ways of reading this sign which can be attributed to different viewers, contexts, and intentions.

08.12.2016, Alain Wijffels, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Jurisprudence, Justitie en gerechtigheid: fundamenten van behoorlijk bestuur in de schilderijen van Vredeman de Vries in Gdansk (Law, and Justice: foundations of proper administration in the paintings of Vredeman de Vries in Gdansk).

When Hans Vredeman de Vries stayed in Danzig (Gdansk) in the 1590s, he was assigned to paint a series of panels for the new city hall. The general theme of the series was the traditional theme of ‘proper public administration’. The seven panels (there might also have been an eighth one originally) are still found today in the historic renaissance building in Gdansk. Each panel is an allegorical depiction of a ‘virtue’ of proper administration and in each case there is a reference to the pernicious consequences if an administrator fails to adhere to that virtue. The entire cycle of seven depictions also follows a general structure, since the series begins with the theme of human justice and ends with the Final Judgement, divine justice. Alternately, between those panels, we see the depiction of virtues inspired more by religious thought than secular thought. Each painting from the series is developed intricately, with Vredeman de Vries’ typically lavish architectural building elements, but also lots of characters: figures from the Ancient World, from the Bible, and allegorical figures who continue and renew the medieval depiction of public administration.

22.12.2016, Vanessa Paumen, Flemish Research Centre for the Arts in the Burgundian Netherlands, Curator, “De kunst van het recht”, Van villing tot vel op de stoel. De straf van Cambyses in beeld (‘The art of justice’, From the flaying to the skin. The Judgement of Cambyses in pictures)

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the story of the severe king Cambyses and the corrupt judge Sisamnes became very popular as an exemplum. If one compares the many depictions from that time with the panels by Gerard David, it becomes clear that the Bruges painter has depicted the story in a completely unique manner. Later depictions focus attention mainly on Otanes, Sisamnes’ son, whilst the punishment is reduced to a small background scene or even completely omitted. The bribe and the arrest are also still seldom pictured; by contrast, the father’s peeled off skin is given a prominent role in those works. This talk considers a number of works in the exhibition with this well-known theme, which Gerard David had already painted for the Bruges aldermen in the 15th century.


08.10.2015, Till-Holger Borchert, Musea Brugge, De herontdekking van de Vlaamse primitieven en het ontstaan van de kunstmusea (The rediscovery of the Flemish primitives and the creation of the art museums).

The rediscovery of the Flemish primitives at the start of the 19th century is inextricably linked to the display of 15th century painting in the museums. This talk elucidates the historical development of the Flemish primitive collection and subsequently considers precisely the role of collectors and museum curators. Their motivation and ideas are put in a broader political and cultural historical context.

26.11.2015, Stefan Huygebaert, UGent Institute for Legal History, Een evidente keuze? De middeleeuwen en haar primitieven als thematiek van de Brugse romantische schilderkunst (An obvious choice? The Middle Ages and its primitives as subject matter of Bruges romantic painting)

Around 1830, Belgian romantic painting was characterised by a topical preference for national history, not least the heroes of national art history. Many of these ‘mythical primitives’, such as Van Eyck, Memling, and David, worked in Bruges, and the Bruges Academy of Fine Arts has preserved some of their major panel paintings. Furthermore, Bruges was the city where the architectural neo-Gothic style displayed both its first and most extensive expression.

This talk centres around the question as to how and to what extent the leading Bruges romantic painters and their academy gave a place in their work and thought to the local medievals and their primitives.

17.12.2015 (cancelled), Jenny Graham, Plymouth University (UK), Mythical primitives: The imagination of the past in 19th century Bruges

Bruges and Flanders played a significant part in the revival of the Gothic style which unfolded in Europe in the 19th century. French painters such as Courbet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin and the British Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones undertook a pilgrimage to Bruges to view the paintings of Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling in situ. Those works had acquired great renown through the new art tourism. A new Flemish movement in art and literature closer to home began to blossom and this movement looked back to the golden age of the fifteenth century. Via word and image the heydays of Van Eyck and Memling in Bruges were relived in the nostalgic close of the century. In this presentation art historian Jenny Graham (author of Inventing Van Eyck: The Remaking of an Artist for the Modern Age, Oxford and New York, 2007) will consider the cultural history of the link between Bruges and its own history as the city entered the modern era.


13 November 2014, Dr Bart Fransen, Centre for the Study of the Flemish Primitives, KIK/IRPA, Sculptuurontwerp in Rogier van der Weyden's atelier (Sculpture design in Rogier van der Weyden’s workshop).

This talk covers the link between 15th century sculpture and the innovative imagery of Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400 – 1464). Although a lot has been published on this subject, it is noticeable that this link is illustrated mainly with examples of sculpture dating from after the master’s death and thereby attests only the so called influence of Van der Weyden’s painting on later sculpture. As yet, little attention has been paid to the direct and active contribution of Van der Weyden to sculpture during his lifetime. Documents which confirm his activity as a sculpture designer are rare, but several of his workshop designs do confirm that this was a significant part of his career. Since the majority of these designs have been studied by specialists in painting, little attention has been paid to links with sculptures. This talk will relate various designs to existing sculptures for which the designs appear to have been made specifically. A new look at this material from a sculptural perspective brings new insights into Van der Weyden’s workshop working methods and the interchange between painters and sculptures.

20 November 2014, Dr Léon Lock, KULeuven/Musée François Duesberg, Mons, Paragone? Relaties tussen beeldhouwkunst en schilderkunst in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden van Jan van Eyck tot Rubens (‘Paragone’? Links between sculpture and painting in the Southern Netherlands from Jan van Eyck to Rubens.)

The ‘paragone’ (translated from Italian as ‘comparison’) is a concept which was introduced to compare the relative qualities of painting and sculpture when painters and sculptures vied against each other in the days of Leonardo and Michelangelo.

This concept has also been discussed sometimes in the Low Countries, but it has seldom really been applied, seeing that our art history concentrated mainly on painting e.g. the Flemish primitives or Rubens and his contemporaries. Is that acceptable? The aim of this talk is to put into context the manifold links between sculpture and painting in the early modern era and to consider matters such as collaboration, 2D vs. 3D, use of material, power relationships within and between the guilds, and how the two professions were viewed.

4 December 2014, Dr Kim Woods, The Open University, UK, Alabaster sculpture in the Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands approx 1400 – 1530.

The famous funeral cortege from the tomb of Philip the Bold at the Chartreuse de Champmol is without doubt the best known alabaster sculpture associated with the Burgundian Netherlands. But what happened to alabaster sculpture after that? This lecture will take a look at the place of alabaster in the sculptural traditions of Low Countries sculptors working both at home and abroad as far afield as Castile in Spain.

11 December 2014, Prof Dr Aleksandra Lipińska, Technische Universität Berlin, Moving Sculptures: Southern Netherlandish alabasters from the 16th to the 17th centuries in Central and Northern Europe.

This lecture presents a little-known chapter of the history of Low countries sculpture: The serial production of small-scale alabaster reliefs, altarpieces and statuettes in the workshops of Mechelen and Antwerp between approx 1525 and 1650. Firstly, it gives an insight into the rules of this craft, the specificity of the material, and the marketing methods employed by the ateliers of alabaster cutters of the Low Counties. Secondly, it discusses the phenomenon from the perspective of the distant recipients of Low Countries alabaster works in Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe on the basis of works largely unknown to the broader public, such as altarpiece commissioned by Julius II, Elector of Brandenburg, or epitaphs of burghers of Berlin, Danzig, or Breslau.


17/10. 2013, Truus van Bueren, Universiteit van Utrecht, Memorievoorstellingen en hun plaats in de middeleeuwse dodengedachtenis. (Memory pieces and their place in the remembrance of the dead in the Middle Ages.)

Memory pieces are paintings and (groups of) sculptures with a religious depiction, prayer portraits, and/or coat of arms of the persons being remembered, their patron saints, and a text with their name, date of death, and a call to pray for their salvation. These works of art were found mainly in churches.

They were highly suitable means of communication, partly because the composite of the piece had set patterns. They were designed primarily as a plea for prayer for the salvation of the persons portrayed and named in the work of art. In addition, it was possible to use these memory pieces and the accompanying texts to raise social, religious-political, and political-social issues.

Yet were the patrons completely free to decide which messages they wanted to convey via their memory piece? Or did other parties also have a say regarding these kinds of gifts? Such parties might have included the church, leaders of the church where the work of art was located, or a city council?

7/11/2013, Douglas Brine, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas (USA), Reflection and remembrance in Jan van Eyck’s Van der Paele virgin.

It was not until the mid-twentieth century that the small figure reflected in St George’s shield in Jan van Eyck’s Virgin and Child with Canon Joris van der Paele received any scholarly attention. Since then, the image has been taken as Van Eyck’s self-portrait and frequently cited in discussions of his authorial presence. The lecture reconsiders the reflection’s function and meaning in relation to the painting’s original setting – the nave of St Donatian’s church, Bruges, in close proximity to Joris van der Paele’s grave and the altar at which he founded masses for his soul. The relationship between the reflection and its viewers is discussed, along with the role of the reflection in the context of commemoration.

21/11/2013, Ronald van Belle, Universiteit Gent, Koperen grafplaten, ontwerpers en de schilderkunst. (Brass tomb plates, designers, and painting.)

The tomb plates and tombstones from our regions are renowned for their high artistic levels and finishes. Do we know anything about their designers? From the end of the 14th century, here, too, researchers have established a move towards pre-Eyckian realism. During the 15th century, the design was clearly influenced by Flemish painting. Some brass memory scenes show similarities to painted panels with donors. Was there any interaction? Some tomb plates resemble work by Gerard David, Pieter Pourbus, Adriaan Isenbrand, Jan Gosaert and others. Is there any documentary evidence that painters were involved in their design? Flemish brass tomb plates were exported throughout the West. There are some preserved tomb plates abroad which make you wonder in which city they were produced: Tournai, Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, or Mechelen? Can painting help us to ascribe tomb plates to a workshop in a particular city? Lots of questions, but we do also have some answers.

5/12/2013, Johanna Scheel, Universität Frankfurt, The donor portrait in early Flemish Primitive painting. Emotional strategies of seeing and self-knowledge.

Flemish Primitive painting reinvented the donor portrait. Donors are given a new position, meaning, and rank in the image; they now come forth and take their place as protagonists in the composition. They equal the holy personnel in everything but in facial expressions.

This creates a curious paradox that has seldom been discussed: On the one hand, the display of emotions in religious paintings constitutes an important factor in the beholder’s empathic reception of the image during prayer and devotion. Yet on the other hand the donor, who could be a perfect role model, seems to negate this identification with the viewer because of his emotionless expression. This lecture investigates this paradox and poses the question as to whether there is a particular function of the donor portrait for the praying beholder in the context of the religious painting.


15.11.2012, Jacques Paviot, Université Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne, Les Portugais à Bruges et Anvers aux 15ème et 16ème siècles. (The Portuguese in Bruges and Antwerp in the 15th and 16th centuries.)

Although they were not particularly numerous, the Portuguese played a part in Bruges and later in Antwerp which should not be underestimated. We can identify three groups within the Portuguese community, namely merchants, representatives of the Portuguese king, and courtiers. Those three groups were present in Bruges in the 15th century and the first two were found in Antwerp in the 16th and 17th centuries. Each of them ordered or purchased works or objects of art. This presentation considers various figures: Duchess Isabella of Portugal (1397-1471) and her entourage, the members of the Portuguese merchant representatives, including the humanist Damião de Góis (1397-1471), and the harder to trace group of merchants, some of whose names, such as Martin Lem, have been handed down via preserved works of art.

6.12.2012, Federica Veratelli, associated in those days with Université Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne, Questions familiales. Profils non édités de donneurs d’ordre italiens à Bruges. (1477 – 1530) (Family Affairs. Unpublished profiles of Italian Patrons in Bruges.)

Lille public records office has a great many documents regarding the presence of Italians in the Habsburg court after the death of Charles the Bold in 1477. The discovery of these documents makes it possible to sketch out profiles of Italian merchants in Bruges at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century. They were new types of merchants, who originated primarily from Florence. They were bankers and suppliers of luxury products for the court. They often acted as patrons of Flemish works of art. Folco and Benedetto, the nephews of Tommaso Portinari, were painted by Hans Memling, whilst Bandini Baroncelli was painted by an anonymous Flemish master. Gaspare Bonciani was the patron of Gerard David. Girolamo Frescobaldi and his children collected a number of paintings in Bruges which bear witness to a northern taste, which, in turn, attracted the interest of Margaret of Austria. This lecture, which is based on a variety of largely unpublished sources, considers some of these less well known figures.

13.12.2012, Marc Gil, Université de Lille 3, Les femmes dans les métiers d’art des Pays-Bas bourguignons (15ème siècle - début 16ème siècle) (The place of women in artistic crafts in the Burgundian Netherlands in the 15th and early 16th century)

Recent studies have shown that women took part in economic affairs for a long time throughout the Middle Ages. However, art historians have generally neglected their role in art production. Source research nevertheless shows clearly that women were present at every step of the creative process. The analysis of regulations of the Guild of Saint Luke from 14 cities (in Northern France, Flanders, Hainaut, and Brabant) and of the enrolment registers of the Bruges guild of the book trade enables us to gain an insight into the activity of women in the art and craft industry. They emerge as masters (after the completion of their master’s examination) at the head of a workshop , either alongside their husbands or independently (as spinsters or windows), and as mentors who trained boys and girls in the craft, and not just in so called feminine crafts. They were also the first victims of economic crises.