1.2 million euros to unlock Memling's hidden secrets

24 January 2023

Hans Memling, one of the top masters amongst the Flemish primitives, worked on his influential oeuvre from Bruges some five centuries ago. To explore that work in depth today - and to make it more tangible than ever to the public - Musea Brugge has been awarded several project grants of over € 800,000 from the Flemish government. An essential support - on top of €400,000 in own funds - to penetrate the hidden secrets of the intriguing master and his work.

Drieluik Johannes de Doper Memling 2

With no fewer than nine works in our collection, seven of which adorn the Flemish Masterpiece List, Musea Brugge manages the second largest Memling collection in the world. Moreover, six works from the collection can be linked directly to the museum Sint-Janshospitaal or other Bruges institutions. This makes the sub-collection unique worldwide and a very important reference collection for all research on works by Hans Memling around the world. With the support of the several project grants totalling some 800,000 euros from Toerisme Vlaanderen (VISITFLANDERS) and the Department Culture, Youth & Media, we will be able to explore the master's work in depth with new technologies and make it available to the general public, with innovative digital applications.

Otobong Nkanga Sint Janshospitaal Musea Brugge f1664971010
Reliquary of Saint Ursula (during expo Otobong Nkanga)

Ideal timing for research

After the successful 'Face to face with Death' exhibition, St John's Hospital will close its doors from 6 February until the end of autumn for a thorough refurbishment. The new format will connect the historic site, Memling's masterpieces and the other renowned old collections with contemporary, new stories. The temporary closure of St John's Hospital presents an excellent opportunity to examine Memling's masterpieces in depth on site without removing them from their permanent storage environment. Indeed, the technical images we can create thanks to this grant provide a basis for in-depth research in the future.

In addition, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK) and UCLouvain will launch interdisciplinary research thanks to BELSPO's multi-year FED-tWIN programme. Within five years, a publication is planned in the renowned series ‘Corpus of Flemish Primitives’ ('Corpus des Primitifs flamands'), entirely dedicated to the 15th-century collection of the St John's Hospital.

Extensive public access inside and outside St John's Hospital

The new stories that will emerge from these studies will form the basis of an outreach to the general (international) public. Hans Memling's mastery is so astonishing and inexhaustible that we want to add depth to the museum visit: in the impressive attic of the medieval hospital, a multimedia and interactive total experience will bring Hans Memling's works to life thanks to digital storytelling.

The project also steps outside the museum walls: the figure of Memling is anchored with the city of Bruges thanks to a new walking trail that leads past places where the artist lived and worked in the 15th century. Finally, an online platform is also being developed for this Memling project to provide in-depth knowledge of the works of and research on this Flemish primitive.

When it comes to public outreach, Musea Brugge collaborates with Thomas More Hogeschool, Meemoo and Toerisme Brugge (Visit Bruges), among others, and can rely on the advice of some major international partners such as The MET, Queens University and Van Gogh Worldwide.

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