A publication by the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Belgium on Theodoor van Loon

1. Theodoor van Loon (about 1582-1649)
The Virgin with Child between Saint
John the Baptist and Saint John Evangelist

Oil on canvas - 237 x 171 cm
Brussels, Musées royaux
des beaux-arts in Belgium
Photo : MRBAB

28/11/11 - Publication and restorations - Brussels, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique - The supremacy of Rubens and his students, among them the great Van Dyck and Jordaens, has overshadowed a host of Flemish artists who worked at that same time but were not part of the master’s workshop nor totally indebted to his art.

These artists are being rediscovered and studied progressively as seen recently in the Valenciennes exhibition on Gerard Seghers (see article in French). The Belgian museum is, in turn, now highlighting Theodoor van Loon, an artist who was active in Brussels but profoundly marked by his three trips to Italy, by publishing a work which assembles current knowledge on the subject. The book coincides with the restoration of three works : The Virgin with Child between Saint John the Baptist and Saint John Evangelist (ill. 1), The Assumption of the Virgin (ill. 2) and The Adoration of the Shepherds (ill. 3).

We do not have much information concerning van Loon’s artistic training. During his first stay in Rome between 1602 and 1608, he was able to see Caravaggio’s art directly and perhaps even meet him. He probably also knew Rubens and was familiar with the work of the Bolognese artists active in his city. All of these influences can be seen in his painting. The first essay, by Irène Baldriga, describes van Loon’s artistic itinerary while the second one, by Sabine van Sprang, looks at the history behind the three paintings commissioned from van Loon for the ducal chapel of Saint Hubert in Tervuren built by Wenzel Coebergher. Although the chapel is still standing, the three canvases were placed in deposit at the end of the 19th century in the museum due to their poor condition and the risks of further deterioration in situ. Originally, the three works were suppposed to be restored, that is besides The Virgin with Child (ill. 1), Saint Hubert Receiving the Stole and The Conversion of Saint Hubert. However, according to Helena Bussers in the foreword, the last two were too damaged to allow for any interventions (although this cannot be seen clearly in the catalogue photographs). Another essay describes these damages in detail and explains the restoration of the first painting as well as that of The Assumption and The Adoration of the Shepherds.

2. Theodoor van Loon (about 1582-1649)
The Assumption of the Virgin
Oil on canvas - 356 x 237 cm
Brussels, Musées royaux
des beaux-arts in Belgium
Photo : MRBAB

3. Theodoor van Loon (about 1582-1649)
The Adoration of the Shepherds
Oil on canvas - 207 x 154 cm
Brussels, Musées royaux
des beaux-arts in Belgium
Photo : MRBAB

The Assumption was originally held in the church of the Grand Béguinage in Brussels where there are still many other paintings by Van Loon [1]. This canvas, for which there is a study at the Musée communal in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, was in much better condition than The Virgin with Child. Finally, the origin of the third restored painting, The Adoration of the Shepherds, before arriving at the museum is, unlike that of the first two, a mystery. It showed several small horizontal cracks, due no doubt to having been rolled up ; the pictorial layer was coming off in certain areas and it also revealed several poorly repainted spots.

Despite being very interesting, this book shows that van Loon remains relatively unknown a fact that should soon change as David Bronze, an art historian, announced here recently that he has started work on a catalogue raisonné.

Collective work, Theodoor van Loon. "Pictor ingenius" et contemporain de Rubens, Cahier des Musées royaux de Beaux-Arts de Belgique, n°10, 2011, 127 p. ISBN : 9789461610263.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 28 novembre 2011


[1] An essay by Eelco Nagelsmit studies the altarpieces by the artist which were commissioned for this site.

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