CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Tuesday 14 March

In-depth study visits on Tuesday, 14 March, 14:30-16:00

1. In-depth session on Antwerp altarpieces at the KMSKA with Koen Bulckens

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp (KMSKA) manages an extensive collection of religious art intimately related to the city’s history. This in-depth session will focus on five key altarpieces of the sixteenth (Frans Floris, Maerten De Vos) and seventeenth centuries (Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens and Anthony Van Dyck). Patronage and religious context are reviewed alongside issues of attribution and workshop practice, with particular attention to technical and materials research and restoration. This will include a look ahead to the forthcoming restoration of Rubens’s Madonna Enthroned, Surrounded by Saints and the Adoration of the Magi, for which the financing of the research and restoration – to be conducted in view of the public – is now largely complete.

2. Storage rooms of the KMSKA with Nico Van Hout

The upgraded KMSKA now possesses internal storage rooms in which to preserve hundreds of artworks. This visit to the storage rooms will focus on some lesser-known pieces from the museum’s collection, dating from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries.

3. St. Paul’s Church with Caroline De Wever

Concealed behind houses, squares, and markets, St. Paul’s Church is a well-kept secret near the Scheldt River. Once you pass through the entrance, you will see artworks by Antwerp masters such as Van Dyck, Jordaens, and Rubens. The four works that Rubens made for the church were seized and transported to France during the period of French rule. However, all but one were later returned to their original location. The Vision of St. Dominic, which had graced the main altar until 1794, remained in Lyon. In addition to paintings, the church also features intricate paneling on both sides of the nave and ten carved confessionals and sculptures by Artus Quellinus and his contemporaries. The excursion will dwell at length on the church’s many treasures.

4. Maagdenhuis with Daniel Christiaens

Until 1882, the Maagdenhuis was Antwerp’s girls’ orphanage. Its collection includes not only the traditional “fine arts” – naturally including numerous religious paintings and portraits – but also items of furniture from middle-class interiors and a large collection of majolica. The work of local artists predominates, but the inventory (approx. 3,000 items owned by the Public Center for Social Welfare) also includes names such as Alonso Cano, Gottfried Kneller, and Giulio Romano. It should be said that many of these are only tentative rather than established attributions. The highly diverse and unclear provenance of the collection is indeed one of its distinctive features. During this excursion, we will look at the collection and discuss a possible identification of the anonymous Portrait of a Young Man from 1635.

5. Museum Plantin-Moretus with Virginie d’Haene

The Plantin-Moretus Museum houses the oldest surviving printing press in Europe. Less well known is that it also has one of the world’s best Print Rooms – in which you will find, for instance, the majority of the old drawings on the list of Flemish Masterpieces. Several of these masterpieces will be highlighted in the exhibition in the fall of 2023 From Scribble to Cartoon: Drawings from Bruegel to Rubens from Flemish Collections. Taking the finest old drawings from Flemish public and private collections as the point of departure, this exhibition will examine the different functions of drawings in the Southern Netherlands of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It will also look at the reasons for the artists’ choice of specific materials, techniques, and formats. Participants will enjoy an exclusive sneak preview of the exhibition.

6. Snijders&Rockoxhuis with Hildegard Van de Velde

As burgomaster of Antwerp, Nicolaas Rockox played a key role in the city’s political, social, and cultural life in the turbulent days of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He was accountable to the art-loving archducal couple Albrecht and Isabella, who believed in the transformative power of art. With the return of Rubens from Italy, the rebuilding of Antwerp’s churches after the religious troubles, and the Twelve Years’ Truce, Albrecht and Isabella – and Rockox – were able to put the city back on the map. For twenty years, Rockox lived next door to the painter Frans Snijders, who as a still-life artist and painter of market and hunting scenes, promoted Antwerp as an attractive city. The Snijders&Rockoxhuis tells this history through the two historic houses and works of art, produced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, witness to the high quality of craftmanship. The excursion will include an active dialogue with participants, looking in-depth at how this urban history is told within a European perspective.

7. Conservation studio and storage rooms of The Phoebus Foundation with Leen Kelchtermans and Sven Van Dorst

The conservation studio of The Phoebus Foundation, established in 2016, is dedicated to the care and research of the collection. The storage rooms have since been enlarged and modified to meet the needs of the ever-growing collection. In 2020, a new studio was added, including a paper and wood workshop and a separate solvent room. The new studio provides a platform for professionals from home and abroad. Complex treatments are tackled in teams and combined with technical/materials and other forms of research. These projects play a role in the preparation of exhibitions, loans, and decisions on which items from the collection to display and are presented in this light to the public. The restoration of the St. Dymphna Altarpiece is an example of such a project. During this field trip, we will set up the conservation studio especially for CODART members and take an exclusive look at some parts of the Foundation’s storage rooms.

Since the storage rooms of The Phoebus Foundation are not served by public transport, CODART will offer participants a transfer by coach.