Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (French: Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Dutch: Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België) are a group of art museums in Brussels, Belgium.

The Royal Museums contains over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings, which date from the early 15th century to the present.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique  (French)
Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België  (Dutch)
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts Belgique 1101
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is located in Brussels
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Location within Brussels
LocationBrussels, Belgium
Coordinates50°50′31″N 4°21′28″E / 50.841944°N 4.357778°E
TypeArt museum
WebsiteOfficial website


In 1845, it was decided, by Royal Decree,[1] that a museum was to be founded with works of art of deceased and living Belgian artists. A national commission was established to select important works of art. The first president of the commission was the Count de Beaufort. Other members were:

Many of the founding members were active in the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium.

The museums

The museums are situated in the downtown Royal District, on the Coudenberg, in Brussels. There are six museums connected with the Royal Museums; two of them are located in the main building – the Oldmasters Museum or Museum of Ancient Art, whose collections cover European art until 1750, and the Museum of Modern Art. The Magritte Museum, opened in 2009, and Fin-de-Siècle Museum, opened in 2013, are adjacent to the main building.[2][3] The smaller Constantin Meunier Museum and the Antoine Wiertz Museum, dedicated to these two Belgian artists, are located a few kilometers from the city centre.

Oldmasters Museum

The museum has an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. The bulk of the collection is formed around Flemish painting, presented in chronological order. For example, there are valuable panels by the Flemish Primitives (including Bruegel, Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin (the Master of Flémalle), Hieronymus Bosch, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens). The museum is also proud of its "Rubens Room", which houses more than 20 paintings by the artist. The painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, long-attributed to Bruegel, is located there and forms the subject of W. H. Auden's famous poem "Musée des Beaux Arts", named after the museum. There are also constant temporary exhibitions.

Magritte Museum

The museum has one of the richest collections of paintings by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Inaugurated on 20 May 2009, the Magritte Museum opened on 2 June 2009.

Fin-de-Siècle Museum

Inaugurated on 6 December 2013, the museum presents collections of artists such as Constantin Meunier, James Ensor, Henri Evenepoel, Fernand Khnopff, Leon Spilliaert, and George Minne.

Wiertz Museum

The life and work of Antoine Wiertz are honored in the painter's former studio, in the heart of the Leopold Quarter. This unique museum offers a striking view of the monumental paintings, statues and sketches marked by the Belgian romantic movement.

Meunier Museum

Located in the former house and workshop of Constantin Meunier, the museum houses 150 works and documents by the realist painter and sculptor.


The chief curators or directors of the museum have been:

The building

The main building which now houses the Museum of Ancient Art was built as the Palais des Beaux-Arts, designed by Belgian architect Alphonse Balat and funded by King Leopold II. Balat was the king's principal architect, and the building was one part of the king's vast construction projects for Belgium. The building was completed in 1887, and stands as an example of the Beaux-Arts architecture use of themed statuary to assert the identity and meaning of the building.[4]

KMSKB, Brussel002
View on the upper floor

The extensive program of architectural sculpture includes the four figures of Music, Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting atop the four main piers, the work of sculptors Égide Mélot, Joseph Geefs, Louis Samain, and Guillaume de Groot respectively. The finial, gilded Genius of Art was also designed by de Groot. The three rondels of Rubens, van Ruysbroek, and Jean de Bologne, who represent Painting, Architecture, and Sculpture, are the work of Antoine-Joseph van Rasbourgh, Antoine-Félix Bouré and Jean Cuypers. The two bas-relief panels are Music by Thomas Vincotte and Industrial Arts by Charles Brunin. The two bronze groups on pedestals represent The Crowning of Art by Paul de Vigne, and The Teaching of Art by Charles van der Stappen.[5]

On the side of the building, a memorial commemorates five members of the Mouvement National Royaliste, a resistance group, killed during the liberation of Brussels on 3–4 September 1944.[6] Alongside the western face of the building is a sculpture park, with works by Aristide Maillol, Emilio Greco, Paul Hanrez and Bernhard Heiliger.

See also

Further reading

  • Grant Allen (1904), "Brussels Picture Gallery", Belgium: its cities, Boston: Page


  1. ^ Het Handelsblad, 3 December 1845
  2. ^ "Museums - Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium". Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  3. ^ Trend, Nick (6 December 2013). "Brussels: Inside the new Musée Fin-de-Siècle". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  4. ^ accessed 9/1/10
  5. ^ Chronique d'un musée: Musées royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, Bruxelles By Franc̜oise Roberts-Jones, page 41
  6. ^ "Monument: National Royalists Monument". Brussels Remembers. Archived from the original on 2013-04-19.

External links

Aelbrecht Bouts

Aelbrecht Bouts (c.1452 - March 1549) was a Flemish painter of the Early Netherlandish era. His first name is sometimes spelled ‘Albert’, ‘Aelbert’ or ‘Albrecht’. He was born into a family of painters in Leuven. Aelbrecht’s father was Dieric Bouts the Elder (c. 1415-1475), and his brother was Dieric Bouts the Younger (c. 1448-1490). Jan Bouts (c. 1478-c. 1530), son of Dieric Bouts the Younger, also became a painter. Dieric Bouts the Younger inherited his father’s shop in 1475, while Aelbrecht established his own workshop, also in Leuven. Whereas Dieric the Younger continued in his father's style, Aelbrecht developed his own unmistakable style with strong colors, rich texture and fine details. He died in Leuven.

Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery (Greenville, South Carolina), the McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, Texas), the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), Harvard University Art Museums, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Hood Museum of Art (Hanover, New Hampshire), the Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena, California), the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri), the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Czartoryski Museum and the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart are among the public collections having paintings by Aelbrecht Bouts.

Apollo and Marsyas (Ribera)

Apollo and Marsyas is the title of a 1637 painting by the Spanish artist José de Ribera, now in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium. Other versions are now in the Museo di Capodimonte and the Naples Archaeological Museum. They all show the Caravaggisti's heavy influence on the artist and depict Marsyas' flaying by Apollo.

Crucifixion with a Donor (Bosch)

Crucifixion With a Donor is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch believed to be painted between 1480 and 1485. The painting resides at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

Gallery of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (Brussels)

Gallery of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in Brussels is a 1651 painting of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm's Italian art collection by the Flemish Baroque painter David Teniers the Younger, now in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.The painting shows the Archduke as a collector admiring a set of prints on a table. The table has been documented as a creation of the sculptor Adriaen de Vries depicting Ganymede. The artist himself is showing his patron an example of a print. The paintings are arranged in rows on a rear wall, and is one of the first that David Teniers the Younger prepared to document the Archduke's collection before he employed 12 engravers to publish his Theatrum Pictorium, considered the "first illustrated art catalog". He published this book of engravings after the Archduke had moved to Austria and taken his collection with him. It was published in Antwerp in 1659 and again in 1673.This painting was purchased for the museum's collection in 1873 from J. Nieuwenhuys in Brussels.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is a painting in oil on canvas measuring 73.5 by 112 centimetres (28.9 in × 44.1 in) in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. It was long thought to be by the leading painter of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. However, following technical examinations in 1996 of the painting hanging in the Brussels museum, that attribution is regarded as very doubtful, and the painting, perhaps painted in the 1560s, is now usually seen as a good early copy by an unknown artist of Bruegel's lost original, perhaps from about 1558. According to the museum: "It is doubtful the execution is by Bruegel the Elder, but the composition can be said with certainty to be his", although recent technical research has re-opened the question.

Largely derived from Ovid, the painting is described in W. H. Auden's famous poem "Musée des Beaux-Arts", named after the museum in Brussels which holds the painting, and became the subject of a poem of the same name by William Carlos Williams, as well as "Lines on Bruegel's 'Icarus'" by Michael Hamburger.

List of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The following is a list of paintings by the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Mars Being Disarmed by Venus

Mars Being Disarmed by Venus is the last painting produced by the French artist Jacques-Louis David. He began it in 1822 (aged 73) during his exile in Brussels and completed it three years later, before dying in an accident in 1825. He sent it to an exhibition in Paris from his exile, knowing that by then Romanticism was ascendant in the Salon. In 2007 it was displayed in the main hall of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, close to the entrance.

At over 3 m (10 ft) high it is an imposing work. Set before a temple floating in the clouds, Venus the goddess of love and her followers, the three Graces and Cupid, are shown taking away the weapons, helmet, shield and armour of Mars the god of war. He allows himself to be disarmed and gives in to Venus's charms. Most of David's models for it were figures involved in the Théâtre de la Monnaie: Venus was modelled by the actress Marie Lesueur, Cupid by Lucien Petipa, Mars by a subscriber or 'abonné', and one of the Graces by the Prince of Orange's mistress.

Massacre of the Innocents (Bruegel)

Several oil-on-oak-panel versions of The Massacre of the Innocents were painted by 16th-century Netherlandish painters Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger. The work translates the Biblical account of the Massacre of the Innocents into a winter scene in the Netherlands in the prelude to the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule, also known as the Eighty Years' War.

What is now thought to be the only version by Bruegel the Elder (c.1565-67) is in the British Royal Collection; for some time held at Hampton Court Palace, by 2017 it was at Windsor Castle. Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II ordered it overpainted to hide images of dead and dying children. Many other versions are attributed to Pieter Breughel the Younger, with different art historians listing as many as 7 or 14 versions, including leading examples in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (the only version showing the slaughter), in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, and in the National Museum of Art of Romania in Bucharest. Pieter Breughel the Younger also painted his own different composition of the Massacre of the Innocents: one example is held by the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 273

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 273 (P. Oxy. 273 or P. Oxy. II 273) is a fragment of a Cession of Land, in Greek. It was discovered in Oxyrhynchus. The manuscript was written on papyrus in the form of a sheet. It is dated to 24 June 95. Currently it is housed in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth, E 5946) in Brussels.

Pietà (van der Weyden)

Pietà is a painting by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden dating from about 1441 held in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. There are number of workshop versions and copies, notably in the National Gallery, London, in the Prado, Madrid, and in the Manzoni Collection, Naples. Infra-red and X-radiograph evidence suggest that the Brussels version was painted by van der Weyden himself, not necessarily excluding the help of workshop assistants. Dendrochronological analysis gives a felling date of 1431 for the oak panel backing, supporting the dating of the painting to around 1441.Campbell & van der Stock describe the painting as evincing a technical and aesthetic mastery in no way inferior to that of The Descent from the Cross, of comparable emotional force and controlled by an equally strongly balanced composition. Christ's dead body is conceived in a similarly natural way as in the Descent, the dangling arms and limp fingers typical of van der Weyden's acute observation. The conspicuous elongation of Christ's wrists has been explained away as the ineptness of an assistant, but equally it might be a consequence of Christ's hanging on the Cross, the kind of realistic detail characteristic of van der Weyden.Although a fair number of imitations were made of the Brussels version, only a few were based directly on it. A direct connection can be seen only in the versions belonging to the Rademakers collection in The Hague, the Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp, and the Manzoni collection, Naples. The Manzoni version combines features from the Brussels version as well as those of the Madrid version and another in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Portrait of Antoine, 'Grand Bâtard' of Burgundy

Portrait of Antoine, 'Grand Bâtard' of Burgundy (or Portrait of Anthony of Burgundy) is an oil panel painting by the Netherlandish painter Rogier van der Weyden portraying Anthony of Burgundy, the bastard son of Philip the Good and one of his mistresses, Jeanne de Presle. The panel is dated to about 1460 and held in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Belgium. He wears the livery collar of Order of the Golden Fleece, a chivalric order established January 10, 1430, by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. In 1456 Anthony was inducted into the prestigious Order, held by only 29 others at that time. The exact significance of the arrow held in the bastard's hand is unknown, although the fleece is thought to refer to either the Greek mythological hero Jason or the Hebrew warrior and judge Gideon.

The work is one of three high-profile van der Weyden portraits commissioned by the Dukes of Burgundy around 1460. The other two are his portraits of Philip the Good and Charles the Bold. In common with most of van der Weyden's male portraits, Antoine is shown half profile, staring aloofly into the middle distance.

In his later commissioned portraits, van der Weyden typically flattered his sitters. He often idealised or softened their facial features, allowing them a handsomeness or beauty, or interest or intelligence they might not have been blessed with in life. If this portrait is compared to the unromantic portrait of Antoine attributed to Hans Memling, painted 8–10 years later, one can see the liberties taken by van der Weyden. Even allowing for aging, the artist seems to have enlarged the eyes, defined the contours of the face, and given a much stronger jaw than seen in Memling's portrait.

Portrait of Barbara van Vlaendenbergh

Portrait of Barbara van Vlaendenbergh is small c 1470–72 oil on wood painting by Hans Memling in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. She is shown in three quarters profile with her hands clasped in prayer, and wears a small black hennin with a transparent veil. Her hair is tightly pulled back, and shaved above the forehead. van Vlaendenbergh is positioned before a landscape framed by an open window.

The Census at Bethlehem

The Census at Bethlehem (also known as The Numbering at Bethlehem) is an oil-on-panel by the Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1566. It is signed and measures about 115,5 cm × 164,5 cm. It is currently held and exhibited at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, which acquired it in 1902. It is one of the first paintings in western art to feature a significant snow landscape and was painted in the aftermath of the winter of 1565, which was one of the harshest winters on record.

The Death of Marat

The Death of Marat (French: La Mort de Marat or Marat Assassiné) is a 1793 painting by Jacques-Louis David of the murdered French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. It is one of the most famous images of the French Revolution. David was the leading French painter, as well as a Montagnard and a member of the revolutionary Committee of General Security. The painting shows the radical journalist lying dead in his bath on July 13, 1793, after his murder by Charlotte Corday. Painted in the months after Marat's murder, it has been described by T. J. Clark as the first modernist painting, for "the way it took the stuff of politics as its material, and did not transmute it".

The Fall of the Rebel Angels (Bruegel)

The Fall of the Rebel Angels is an oil-on-panel by the Netherlandish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1562. It is currently held and exhibited at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

The Green Christ

The Green Christ (in French: Le Christ vert) is a painting executed by Paul Gauguin in autumn 1889 in Pont-Aven, Brittany, France. Together with The Yellow Christ, it is considered to be one of the key-works of Symbolism in painting. It depicts a Breton woman at the foot of a calvary, or sculpture of Christ's crucifixion. Calvaries are common in town squares in Brittany. The woman appears to be hiding from a pair of figures in the distant background; the green christ providing her cover from the figures.

Topographically, the site depicted is the Atlantic coast at Le Pouldu. But the calvary depicted is an amalgam of calvaires from different site; the cross is based upon that in the centre of Névez, a community close to Pont-Aven and several miles from the coast, and the figure of Christ is based upon the calvaire at Briec - also some distance from the sea.

The King Drinks (Jordaens, Brussels)

The King Drinks is a 1640 painting by Jacob Jordaens, now in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. It shows the Twelfth Night king.

The Temptation of St. Anthony (Dalí)

The Temptation of St. Anthony is a painting by Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Painted in 1946, it is a precursor to the body of Dalí's work commonly known as the "classical period" or the "Dalí Renaissance".

The Virgin Mary and Saint Francis Saving the World from Christ's Anger

The Virgin Mary and Saint Francis Saving the World from Christ's Anger is a work by Peter Paul Rubens and his studio. It is linked to his Saints Dominic and Francis Saving the World from Christ's Anger (Lyon). It is now in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

Constituent museums of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

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