In the footsteps of Andrew Graham Dixon in the Low Countries

Icarus_Bruegel_11_5_13Today’s visit to the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels uncovered some Low Countries classics. We’d been watching Andrew Graham-Dixon’s recent series on the art of the low countries (see entry 5 April 2013); today’s visit was to trace his footsteps and see some of the work featured in the show, including Pieter Bruegel’s. In particular we were keen to find “La Chute D’Icare”. Suddenly, there it was. Ilonka points here to Icarus falling into the water after his ill-fated flight towards the sun.

Other notable pictures include a fantastic copy of Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych, Bosch_Tryptisch_11_5_13“Triptyque de la tentation de Saint Antoine” (the original can be found in Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon – there are apparently 11 other copies). The picture (right) is difficult to make out from my mobile phone camera in poor light, but the assortment of other-worldly creatures that populate it are worthy of any Terry Gilliam movie or mind under the influence of some narcotic.

St Antoine was a rich Egyptian who gave up his worldly possessions to the poor to live as a hermit in the desert. In so doing, he was constantly subject to – largely sexual – temptations from prostitutes, pimps and demons.

IMG-20130511-00135There are many more pictures that I could upload. I offer one further gem, Frans Franken II/ Joos de Momper II’s Tower of Babel (1650) (left). Although this is a biblical image, it conjures up for me a very contemporary fixation with height. London has become fixated, for sure.

Other recommendations – Frans Hal’s “Portrait de Willem Van Heythuysen” (1650) a classic unmistakable Hals portrait of a rich trader; David Winckboons’ “Le Vendeur de Gumbardes” (1614) (a rather unpleasant dental appointment); Crispiaen van den Broeck’s “Le Judgement Dernier” (1560).

TRubens_room_11_5_13his museum is a delight. It is large but really not crowded. The Rubens room (right) is vast – it has to be to accommodate some of the largest paintings that I have ever seen mounted in a gallery. But the gallery of ancient paintings is complemented by the Moderne and the Magritte. Currently the Moderne is being refurbished and is closed. Not to worry, there was enough treasure in the Ancient collection to keep us going for the day.

It rained whilst we were in the gallery. I bought an umbrella – unusual for me buying from a gift shop – with the Bruegel painting printed on to it.

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