Report from Bruges, the cosmopolitan

Report from Bruges, the cosmopolitan


If the dynasty of the Dukes of Burgundy identified Bruges as their city of choice, there is a reason. Included in Flanders due to intricate matrimonial unions, Bruges soon turned into a very respectable cultural center, chosen by the likes of Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling as a place to spend existence and let the creative genius flow. Moreover, since the Middle Ages the city had been a crossroads for business meetings, making itself known far beyond its borders and assuming a sparkling cosmopolitan identity.

The vitality of Bruges has certainly not been affected by time. Just think, if we limit ourselves to the universe of the arts, to the network of museums that innervates its streets. Let's start with the Gruuthuse Museum [1], which last May reopened to the public after five years of restoration. Named after its most illustrious tenant, Lodewijk van Gruuthuse - a businessman and patron of the fifteenth century who held the monopoly of the gruut, a spice mix used at the time to flavor beer -, the museum now presents itself with a new look , and a new wing, where the Flemish grandeur is revived and where a spectacular collection of tapestries, ceramics, musical instruments, lace and paintings is enclosed.

The long restoration has also transformed the courtyard into a hall that welcomes the public and anticipates the offer of Bruges civic museums, increasingly active in increasing the cultural offer of the city.

If you really want to know the whole history of Flemish painting, the Groeninge Museum [2] is for you. Among its rooms there are dwellings such as the Madonna with the canon van der Paele by Jan van Eyck and the Moreel Triptych by Hans Memling, cornerstones of the Flemish Primitives, then moving on to Mannerism, Baroque, up to Neoclassicism, to Surrealism and contemporary art in the strict sense.

A short distance from the Groeninge and Gruuthuse museums is the Memling Museum - Sint-Janshospitaal [3], housed in the oldest hospital in Europe. Obviously the "landlord" is Memling, of which the Diptych of Maarten van Nieuwenhove (1487), the Portrait of a young woman (1480) and the Reliquary of St. Ursula, which received the remains of the saint in 1489, are preserved. there is no lack of devotional objects, other relics and a collection of medical instruments used until 1864.

A university city par excellence, Leuven, in the province of Brabant, can also count on a dense artistic heritage, which places it among the essential destinations of a trip to Flanders.

One of the stops to put on the agenda without a doubt is the Collegiata di San Pietro, which overlooks the Grote Markt, the main square of Leuven. Built over a thousand years ago, it is an example of late Gothic Flemish architecture and houses some masterpieces by artists who chose to move to the city and lead their lives there.

Among these is Dieric Bouts, a full member of the Flemish Primitives and author of some guest masterpieces of the Collegiate's ambulatory, which became a museum in 1980, and since 2009 an integral part of M Museum - where you can shine your eyes with a collection of sculptures, paintings and objects related to the area of ​​Brabant - and in 2018 subjected to restoration.

Following this intervention, the pictorial works exhibited in the ambulatory were temporarily transferred to the nave, where Bouts' last supper, the central panel of the polyptych preserved in the Collegiate, is also located. The color rendition, the compositional choices and the strong realism of the religious scene insert this painting in the wake of the fifteenth-century Flemish tradition, making the work one of the must-see of the genre, despite the fame of its author has faded with the passing of the centuries.

We will have to wait some more time to enjoy the results of the architectural restoration and also to admire the paintings in a new "light". All thanks to the new technologies, which will guarantee an unprecedented sensory experience in "mixed reality", thanks to which it will be possible to know not only the history of an ancient place, but also that of the works kept inside, descending into the authentic atmosphere of the epic Flemish.

Arianna Testino was born in 1983. She studied medieval-modern art history in Bologna and specialized in contemporary arts in Venice. Passionate about writing and curating, she is interested in deepening and conceiving artistic activities of a public and social nature.

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Events in Bruges