CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

CODART TWAALF Congress: background information


The CODART TWAALF congress in Aachen and Maastricht will be the first CODART congress organized across international borders, and it has come about through close collaboration with two museum partners: the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen and the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. The two host cities, Aachen and Maastricht, will welcome delegates during the congress dinner, and in receptions in special historic locations.

The historic cities welcoming us lie close together and have roots in the Roman period which is something reflected in their names. Aachen takes its name from the mineral springs that were already popular in Roman times: aqua. Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, and its Latin name Mosa Trajectum means “crossing place on the Maas”. The Romans built a bridge there, which was replaced by the current main crossing, the St. Servatius Bridge, in the 13th century.

Aachen is the city of Charlemagne, who first came to Aachen in 768, and 20 years later built his palace there. The magnificent Palatine chapel now forms the heart of the Aachen Cathedral. The court of Aachen became the intellectual as well as spiritual center of the empire: the center of the “Carolingian renaissance”. It was here that Carolingian Minuscule was developed, the style of writing that we still use today. The gothic City Hall, where 32 German kings celebrated their coronation, still forms the heart of Aachen’s old city center.

The center of Maastricht displays its long history in its many churches, squares and monuments. The Tomb of St. Servatius, Holland’s first bishop, is a popular place of pilgrimage. The city reached its high point in the 15th century, by when it was an important center for both religion and trade. Maastricht flourished as more churches (among them the Gothic St. John) and monasteries were built in the city and all kinds of trade shops opened up for business. Since 1988, Maastricht has housed the annual European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). Together with the city of Liège, Maastricht and Aachen, have a central position in the “Euregio” area.

Both two cities are rich in cultural sites including museums with important collections of Dutch and Flemish art: the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, and the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht.

Our hosts

Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht
The building by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi is situated on the banks of the River Maas and its distinctive tower is a familiar part of the city’s skyline. In his design, Rossi refers to the type of museum building which has been developed since the 18th century, so from the outside it has a severe, closed-off appearance. However, once inside the visitor is overwhelmed by the play of daylight, which is epitomized by the famous ‘Treppen Strasse’ just inside the entrance. The building houses the departments of Old Masters and of contemporary art.

The collection of early art focuses on Medieval applied art and woodcarving from the Maas region, early Italian painting, and painters’ workshop practice in the Southern Netherlands up to about 1650. The Neutelings collection includes objects made of ivory, enamel, alabaster and bronze. The collection also contains numerous fragments from large wooden altarpieces, many of which come from Antwerp. Besides the collection of early Italian painting, the Southern Netherlands is also very well represented with works by Pieter Aertsen, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Jacob Jordaens, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.

The Bonnefantenmuseum works closely with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. An exhibition that is a product of this collaboration, Palazzo, Collecting Early Italian Art in the Netherlands 1900-1940, will be on show during the CODART congress.

Congress delegates will also be able to see the Jacob Jordaens exhibition. One of Jordaens’s undisputed masterpieces is St. Peter finding the tribute money from ca.1623. This monumental painting has been in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen since 1912, where it has undergone extensive technical research and has been fully restored. A second, considerably smaller version of the painting is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Until now, it was presumed that this version was a copy of the larger painting, but technical research has shown that the relationship between the two works is much more complex than had been assumed. The two versions occupy a central place in the exhibition, which has been mounted in collaboration with the Statens Museum for Kunst.

Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen
The museum was established by Aachen’s Museumsverein in 1883 and it was at first known by the name of the founder, Barthold Suermondt. Since 1901 the museum has been housed in the Villa Cassalette, which was built in the form of a Venetian palace. The building has been extended several times over the years, and in 1977 the name was altered to include Ludwig, recording the benefaction of Peter and Irene. The museum’s most recent extension dates from 1992-1994.

The museum has broad holdings, ranging from 12th-century sculpture to modern art. There are two large rooms dedicated to an important collection of late gothic sculpture, including pieces from the Rhineland and Lower Saxony. 16th-century works include paintings by Albrecht Bouts, Lucas Cranach and Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. 17th-century holdings include works by Jacob van Ruisdael, Anthony van Dyck, Joseph de Bray, Frans Hals, Jacob Jordaens, Frans Snyders, Willem Claesz Heda and Willem Kalf.

The CODART congress takes place during the exhibition The great virtuoso from Amsterdam: Jacob Adriaensz Backer (1608/09 – 1651), which is a partnership between the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen and the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam. Jacob Backer was famous among his contemporaries for his brilliant painting technique. His reputation was in the first instance based on the virtuosity of his portraits. As a history painter Backer played a pioneering role: he led the way for the establishment of Amsterdam classicism. His spectacular history pieces with mythological themes and subjects taken from pastoral poetry, were far ahead of their time. Arnold Houbraken, the artists’ biographer, speaks of him as “an exceptional painter on a large scale”. Backer’s drawings were also highly praised by his contemporaries. The exhibition contains representative examples of Backer’s drawings as well as paintings, including works from private collections which have not been exhibited before. In addition, there are masterpieces from the great museums of Europe, Russia and the United States. The selection is guided by the many years of dedicated research by Peter van den Brink.

Locations of receptions, excursions and visits

Maastricht Town Hall 
In 1656 Pieter Post was commissioned to make a design, budget proposal and model for the building of a town hall in Maastricht. Post (1608-1669) was a pupil of Jacob van Campen, and was also architect of the Huis ten Bosch in The Hague, Hofwijck House in Voorburg and of the weighhouses in both Leiden and Gouda. He worked with Jacob van Campen on the Noordeinde Palace and the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

In order to build the town hall, several buildings needed to be demolished, including the Clothmakers’ Hall, the Belfort, part of the city wall containing two gates, the Gevangenenpoort and the Leugenpoort, as well as a few houses. This development allowed the creation of a large rectangular square in the center of Maastricht. The facades are built from Namur stone, which is quarried at Seilles near Namur in the Ardennes. The quarry was also the site where all the staircases, pilasters and decorations were worked.

Until the end of the 17th century, Maastricht was governed by the Duke of Brabant and by the Prince-Bishop of Liège. This is visible in the building: the left-hand side is Brabantian, the right-hand side contains the Liègois chambers.

Aachen Town Hall
On journeys through his empire, Charlemagne stopped in Aachen at least five times until he began with the building works for his Palace around 789. The central hall, which coincided more or less with the external dimensions of the modern-day Town Hall, stood at the highest point of the Palace complex, situated about eight meters higher than the Palace Church. The King’s Hall, which is the center of the Palace complex was the place for Charlemagne’s official duties, including luxurious celebrations and ceremonial receptions for delegations from foreign countries.

At the end of the Carolingian reign the Palace slowly became forgotten. The next flourishing period for Aachen began when Otto I decided to hold his coronation in Aachen in 936. Over the following 600 years about 30 German kings and 11 queens followed his example until 1531.

The Palace had been badly damaged over the centuries. From 1334 to 1377 a Town Hall was erected that served as civic administrative building. From 1562 onwards, coronations no longer took place in Aachen and the Coronation Hall was used more generally for celebrations. After a devastating fire, the Town Hall was transformed by Johann Joseph Couven. The rebuilt Town Hall, in Baroque style, was inaugurated in 1736. After another fire, a reconstruction of the Town Hall was finished in 1902. After the destruction of the Second World War, the Town Hall was rebuilt with reconstructed spires. Today, the building only partly justifies the term “City Hall”: The city council still convenes there, but the administration is done elsewhere. The prestigious rooms, especially the Coronation Hall, find a far more fitting use for various festivities, most notably the annual ceremony during which the city’s famous Charlemagne Prize is awarded.

The Aachen Cathedral and Treasury in Aachen 
Aachen Cathedral was erected on the orders of Charlemagne in 786 AD and was on completion the largest dome north of the Alps. On his death Charlemagne’s remains were interred in the Cathedral where they can still be seen. The Cathedral was extended several times in later periods, turning it into a curious and unique mixture of building styles.

Charlemagne began the construction of the Palatine Chapel, the core of the Aachen Cathedral, around 792, along with the building of the rest of the palace structures. The chapel was consecrated in 805 by Pope Leo III in honor of the Virgin Mary, and it is surprisingly small in comparison to the later additions. In order to sustain the enormous flow of pilgrims in the Gothic period a choir hall was built: a two-part Capella vitrea (glass chapel) which was consecrated on the 600th anniversary of Charlemagne’s death.

The Aachen Cathedral treasury displays sacred masterpieces of the late Classical, Carolingian, Ottonian and Staufian periods – among them there are some unique exhibits like the “Cross of Lothair” the “Bust of Charlemagne” and the “Persephone sarcophagus”. The Cathedral Treasury in Aachen is regarded as one of the most important ecclesiastical treasuries in northern Europe. Albrecht DĂźrer described the Cathedral treasures in his journal: “There I have seen all the beautiful treasures, of such value as no-one who lives in our country has ever seen.” Many objects were the gifts of kings. The collection also contains objects used in coronation ceremonies. It includes altarpieces, the bust and reliquary of Charlemagne, the Shrine of the Virgin Mary, and numerous manuscripts and ivories

The Museum aan het Vrijthof 
The Spanish Government Museum is located in a 16th-century former chapter house in Maastricht, on Vrijthof Square. It is one of the oldest surviving private buildings of Maastricht, dating from the 14th century. It was built to accommodate one of the canons of the former St. Servatius Chapter.

The inner courtyard has a renaissance-style open arcade with a carved relief, ornamented by portrait medallions of Charles V, his wife Isabella of Portugal, and their son Philip II. Both architecture and carvings express the special relationship that Charles V had with the city of Maastricht, and especially with the Spanish Government House, where he stayed at various times between 1520 and 1550.

The museum has a number of period rooms with 17th- and 18th-century furnishings, silverwork, porcelain, pottery, glassware and so forth. It also has a superb collection of 17th- and 18th-century Dutch paintings. Two rooms are furnished in the Liège-Maastricht Regency style, popular in the mid-18th century. One of the important features of these two rooms is the museum’s collection of Maastricht silverwork. The museum also regularly organizes temporary exhibitions of work by local artists and craftsmen of the recent and more distant past.

Since 1973, the museum has housed the Wagner-de Wit collection. This private collection, assembled by Mr. and Mrs. Wagner-de Wit, consists primarily of 18th-century furnishings, porcelain, pottery, silverwork, glassware and carpets, as well as paintings and sculpture from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century. Liège Regency-style furnishings, clocks and silverwork have been added to the core collection, which passed to the Wagner-de Wit Foundation in 1958 after the death of both spouses.

Church of St. Servatius
In 384, shortly after Servatius, Bishop of Tongeren died in Maastricht, a wooden chapel was built over his grave. This chapel was replaced soon after 549 by a stone church with crypt. The large number of pilgrims that streamed through the church meant that it soon became too small. The present church is probably the third to be built on the site. In the 12th century, major alterations were made to the apse, with the addition of arcading, choir towers, and the imposing mass of the west end with its choir and Emperor’s Chamber, symbol of the special imperial status enjoyed by the Church of St. Servatius until 1204. After completion, the church was further altered on several occasions. At the beginning of the 13th century the Bergportaal doorway went up on the south side, which is probably the earliest example of Gothic architecture in the Netherlands. In 1556 a third tower was built between the two west towers, again in the Gothic style. In 1770 this tower was replaced by another in Baroque style.

Until 1797 St. Servatius served as a collegiate church, but afterwards it was used by the invading French as a stable. In 1804 the building was returned to its religious function as a parish church.

Between 1866 and 1900 St. Servatius was extensively restored by P.J.H. Cuypers. There was a second major restoration in the 1920s. On this occasion the neo-Gothic interior of Cuypers, with its wall paintings and furnishings, were for the most part removed again. At that point the 15th-century polychromy was largely restored.  The Treasury contains a collection of liturgical objects.

Basilica of Our Lady
The first church on the site of the basilica was built in the 5th century, thus making the Basilica of Our Lady Maastricht’s oldest church. It was built within the walls of the old castrum, probably replacing a pagan Roman shrine. The church may have been used as a cathedral in the period when a bishopric was established in Maastricht. The present church dates from the 11th century. Its grey cornerstones were taken from the Roman fort that stood on the site of the present church building, and which was taken down at that time. Until the city was circled with walls in 1229, the Basilica of Our Lady was the central point of Maastricht. The church has a crypt on both east and west sides.

Monastery of the Crosiers 
This large complex of buildings has functioned since its foundation in 1483 as the monastery and church of the Order of Crosiers. During the French Revolution, it was turned into a barracks and arsenal. At the beginning of the last century, Jonkheer Victor de Stuers and the architect Cuypers took control of the complex, which was in a state of decay. After carrying out basic repairs, it was used as a testing station for the Ministry of agriculture. From 1981, when it fell out of use, the complex deteriorated rapidly. In 2000 a decision was made to arrest the decline of this precious group of buildings. A thorough program of restoration began and the building was transformed into a luxury contemporary boutique hotel, which respects the building’s history.

Dominican Church
This church dates from the 13th century and contains Medieval paintings unique in the Netherlands. It seems that the paintings were covered with a layer of whitewash in the 18th century. In the early 19th century the building lost its religious function and was used as a civic storehouse, concert hall, post office, and more recently as a bicycle store.

In 1861 Victor de Stuers, who “rediscovered” the old paintings, had the layer of whitewash removed. Large areas of original decoration were lost, but the remains of these unique Medieval and early 17th-century paintings were uncovered. Among the works uncovered was a wall painting from 1337, which includes the world’s earliest representation of Thomas Aquinas. In 2005 restoration of the vault paintings began, followed by the wall paintings. The Dominican church now houses the “finest bookshop in Holland”.