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Musea Brugge entrusted with the administration of drawings by Michelangelo, Jordaens, Boucher and other artists

17 May 2022

Musea Brugge is entrusted with the administration of 1,920 drawing masterpieces and 25 sketch books by world famous artists like Michelangelo, Jordaens and Boucher. The Jean van Caloen Foundation of the castle estate at Loppem has entrusted the further care and administration of the collection to the Bruges Print Room, with effect from 17 May. The drawings date from the late 16th century to the 20th century and were collected primarily by Baron Jean van Caloen (1884-1972).

Michelangelo recto Stichting Van Caloen Musea Brugge
Jordaens recto Stichting Van Caloen Musea Brugge
‘The Priest’s Blessing’, Jacques Jordaens

Hidden treasure

Amongst other works, the collection contains the drawing of ‘The Priest’s Blessing’ by Jacques Jordaens and a fine depiction of a young woman by the French master François Boucher.

The absolute highlight of the collection is the magnificent ‘Stoning of St. Stephen’ by Michelangelo Buonarotti. It is the only drawing of the celebrated Italian Renaissance artist currently held in Belgium. It is a remarkable piece, not least because it is a composition study: a drawing in which Michelangelo set down some of his ideas on paper. Drawings of this kind were used by artists as preparatory sketches for larger final works, such as paintings or sculptures.

Michelangelo recto Stichting Van Caloen Musea Brugge
‘Stoning of St. Stephen’, Michelangelo Buonarotti

In addition to works by Italian and French masters, the Flemish, Dutch and Belgian schools are particularly well represented. Until now, the collection has been a largely hidden but much cherished treasure. Its valuable works were only lent sporadically and in limited numbers.

Scientific research

With this new acquisition, the Bruges Print Room will be able to add almost 2,000 drawings to its existing collection of some 20,000 works on paper.

We will thoroughly investigate and study the drawings, in collaboration with leading specialists in their different fields. This research will result in the publication of a scientific catalogue for the collection, with special attention for the most important works. This publication will appear as an accompaniment to an exhibition of works from the collection in the new exhibition space at BRUSK. In addition, Musea Brugge will also make the entire collection digitally available on the Musea Brugge website, so that these magnificent drawing will be freely available to everyone

This means, amongst other things, that a number of artists who were not previously included in our collection will now be represented for the first time. Moreover, the Jean van Caloen collection also contains numerous other drawings that relate to works that are already a part of the city’s collection.

Anne van Oosterwijk, Collection Director, Musea Brugge

Sneak preview of seven of the collection’s finest works

Musea Brugge and the Jean van Caloen Foundation celebrated this transfer with a small-scale exhibition of seven of the collection’s finest works in the Groeninge Museum. These works were on display from 17 to 22 May, following which they were given a place with all the collection’s other works in the Bruges Print Room. They will be registered and digitalised in high resolution, before being made freely available to the public via Musea Brugge’s digital collection database.

About the Jean van Caloen Foundation

In 1856, Baron Charles van Caloen and his wife, Countess Savina de Gourcy Serainchamps, commissioned to build the romantic castle at Loppem.

The castle is now home to a rich art collection, most of which was compiled by Baron Jean van Caloen (1884-1972), the grandson of Charles. He was a passionate collector with a wide range of interests: medieval sculpture, Flemish painting, stoneware from Raeren and Westerwald, Mechelen alabaster, Portuguese ivory, illuminated manuscripts, prints and drawings.

In 1951, Baron Jean van Caloen set up the foundation that still bears his name and which is responsible for the administration not only of the castle, its surrounding park and ancillary buildings, but also of all the castle’s contents. The purpose of the foundation is to preserve and maintain the entire castle complex for future generations, as well as to extend its various collections and make them more widely known.