The Bruges canon Joris van der Paele commissioned this work for a place beside his grave in St Donatian’s Cathedral, where he also asked for masses to be read. His patron saint, Joris (George), commends the sick canon to Mary and Jesus. Opposite them stands St Donatian, the patron saint of the church. Van Eyck’s detailed realism and rendering of material are astonishing, as are the reflections on Joris’ harness and helmet. The church interior is possibly based on St Donatian’s Cathedral, which no longer survives.
David was commissioned by the Bruges aldermen, who in that era were also judges, to paint this monumental diptych depicting the corrupt judge Sisamnes. To the left, he accepts a bribe and is arrested by King Cambyses. To the right is the punishment: Sisamnes is flayed alive. His skin is used to upholster the chair of his son, who succeeds him as a judge. As a warning to the judges to act fairly, this was certainly hard-hitting! Justice panels such as this adorned many a Flemish town hall where judgements were passed. David framed this ancient story in a contemporary setting, so that viewers could better identify with the scene.
In the central panel, Christ appears to a sinful world, populated with grotesque characters and naked figures that misbehave or are tortured. As is often the case with the idiosyncratic Bosch, vice and sin play a central role. On the side panels we see the end of the Last Judgement: to the left, pious believers are admitted to a paradisiacal heaven, whilst to the right sinners are sent to the fires of hell.
Pourbus schilderde dit Laatste Oordeel voor de rechtszaal van het Brugse Vrije, een uitgestrekt bestuurlijk gebied rond Brugge. Christus wordt omringd door heiligen terwijl de graven op aarde openbarsten en de doden herrijzen. Hij stuurt de gelukzaligen naar de hemel en de zondaars naar de hel. De gespierde figuren doen denken aan het Laatste Oordeel van Michelangelo in de Sixtijnse Kapel, dat Pourbus van prenten kende.
In this work, Bruges’ most important Baroque artist, Jacob van Oost I, demonstrates his talent as a portrait painter to the bourgeoisie. François Lamoral Baltijn is depicted with his second wife, his four children, their servant and the gardener. Van Oost has incorporated the ages of the parents and children into the portrait. The paterfamilias points proudly to his family and his estate, with the showcasing of wealth and status being of primary importance.
According to an ancient story, the art of drawing was invented when Dibutades drew the shadow of her lover on the wall of her father’s pottery workshop. She wanted to remember his features as he was leaving on a long journey. Suvée donated this neoclassical masterpiece to the Bruges Academy in gratitude for the training he had received at the school.
Het landleven bij de rivier de Leie is hét thema van Emile Claus. Zijn landschappen baden in het zonlicht en zijn meestal bevolkt, hier door een jonge vrouw en kind en een man in een boot. Claus plaatst de personages vooraan in tegenlicht, waardoor hun silhouetten vervagen. Zo worden ze één met het landschap. De wilde oeverbegroeiing, geschilderd in een losse, impressionistische toets, gebruikt Claus als repoussoir.
Khnopff brings together two enigmatic drawings in a gilded frame. At the top is a pastel drawing: a portrait of his sister and muse Marguerite. She is stroking the mouth of a mask that will keep a secret. The pencil drawing beneath it depicts the side wall of the St John’s Hospital, but especially its reflection (reflet) in the water. For a Symbolist, the reflections of objects were more important than the things themselves.
‘My husband Johannes completed me in the year 1430 on 17 June/ I was thirty-three years old’, we read in Latin on the frame. This is followed by Jan van Eyck’s motto: ‘Als ich can’ (to the best of my ability). Van Eyck’s wife fixes us with a penetrating stare. Her clothing is trimmed with squirrel fur, while her horned hairstyle decorated with lace. After Jan’s death, she continued to run his Bruges workshop for a number of years.
The portraits on the side panels of this triptych are among the oldest of all Flemish group portraits. The wealthy Moreel family from Bruges, who commissioned the piece, are portrayed alongside their patron saints. This painting hung in their family chapel in Saint Jacob’s Church. On the middle panel, in between Saint Maurus and Saint Egidius, the Christ Child sits on Christopher’s shoulders. A sublime landscape runs across the three panels.
Pieter Bruegel’s popular paintings were already being enthusiastically copied immediately after his death. This version barely diverges from the original and was almost certainly made by his son Pieter the Younger. John is preaching before a colourful group of people. This is an allusion to the forbidden hedge sermons by reformist preachers.
This composition draws on a tapestry design by Rubens featuring the Greek hero Achilles. To prevent him from being killed in the Trojan War, Achilles’ mother hid him, disguised as a woman, on an island, where he lived amongst the king’s daughters. He was unmasked by Greek army commanders dressed as traders. Achilles betrayed himself by reaching for the weapons that lay hidden within the merchandise.
In this Fauvist portrait, Rik Wouters applied intense colours with quick brushstrokes. He left parts of the canvas unpainted as a way of capturing the light. Gabriëlle Giroux and her husband Georges owned a fashion boutique and a gallery in Brussels. As admirers of Wouters’ oeuvre, they offered him a monthly contract and organised a solo exhibition of his work in 1914.
For this sculpture in white painted cement, Georges Vantongerloo began by portraying a seated woman. Working drawings that have been preserved show the evolution from Realism to Abstraction. At that point in time, Vantongerloo lived in the Netherlands and became familiar with the work of international avant-garde artists via exhibitions. He became the sole Belgian member of De Stijl, a movement that promoted a new abstract visual language.