Bruges. Or Brugge, in Dutch. Or the 'Venice of the North', as the canal-based place in neighbouring Belgium is nicknamed. The beauty of this medieval city is well-known (Bruges is on the UNESCO world heritage list) and therefore attracts many visitors. That popularity has a downside but if you pay no mind to the (other) camera carrying folk -either clustered in groups, canal boots or horse cab-, ignore the pop music played through street speakers and see the humour of one chocolate and needle lace shop after another, it's a town certainly worth a visit. Last weekend I was in Bruges and I didn't give the town's highlights the cold shoulder but my main goal was to go to the Groeningemuseum.
The collection of the museum is small but of high quality. Many Flemish Primitive paintings are presented there, in a very visitor friendly way. The rooms have the intimacy of a gallery and sometimes the only barrier between the viewer and the artwork is a glass plate that secures the painting. Almost all works can be approached closely and the tiniest details can be discovered and studied. Unfortunately Hieronymus Bosch's 'The last judgement' was on loan but I could marvel -for example- at the details of the works of Jan van Eyck, or the softness that Adriaen Isenbrant managed to get into his portraits. The museum also has examples of Belgian symbolism, modernism and post war art but I was mostly impressed by the 15th and 16th century work. Here are some photo's;
First photo; Needle lace. You could also buy lace wine bottle outfits to pimp up your Bordeaux with either a suit & tie, dress & bonnet or a neutral apron.
The large oil painting 'The virgin and child with canon Van Der Paerle' by Jan van Eyck, ' (1434-36), is astonishingly beautiful. Its colours and details are so rich and truly seem to pop from the panel. The depth of the textures in clothing, rugs, skin and metal is very tangible. What a painting!
I think Pieter Pourbus had fun painting his version of the 'Last judgement', (1551). The 'heavenly', upper half of the painting is devote and pretty straight forward but the lower part of the piece, where Pourbus captures the demons and the suffering of the souls who are bound for hell or purgatory, is very expressive and playful. Another remarkable thing, when inspecting the work closely you could clearly see the sketch lines underneath the top layer of paint, which could not be seen when standing two steps back. How interesting that he decided to let those lines be.
Detail of the Adriaen Isenbrant triptych, first half 16th century.
(Part of a) triptych by unknown artist. Beautiful colour combination, lovely hand detail.
On a five minute walk from the Groeningemuseum lies the the St. Salvator's Cathedral, an impressive church that houses a collection of art as well.