Charity by Van Delen Exhibited at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in a Controversial Presentation


28/10/13 - Museum - Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts - When it was acquired, the Fondation Roi Baudouin had announced its intention to replace this newly discovered group, Charity, by Jean Van Delen in its original location, that is the superb funerary chapel of the Tour et Taxis family in the church of Notre Dame du Sablon in Brussels, a project which we heartily commended (see article). Of course, access and security conditions had to be ensured. Fortunately, the church was restored not long ago but the renovations were limited (at least as concerns said chapel) to waterproofing the roof and reconsolidating the building which means the interior still requires further work (as proven by the presence of props). This is no doubt the reason why Charity has not yet been reinstalled there. Whatever the case, the Fondation recently announced that the sculpture could be admired at the Musée royaux des Beaux-Arts. Regardless of the fact that we fear this implied that the very attractive and much desired project of returning the sculpture in situ would be relegated to the bottomless pit of good intentions, we found this to be an excellent idea.


1. The installation of Charity by Jan van Delen
at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels
Photo : Denis Coekelberghs

2. The installation of Charity by Jan Van Delen
at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels
Photo : Denis Coekelberghs


The news that the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts had agreed along with the Fondation Roi Baudouin to welcome Van Delen’s Charity, might even have led us to imagine that the directors at this establishment were doing so in order to finally begin enhancing its own sculpture collections. We had previously deplored seeing them so poorly considered when they in fact represent a unique ensemble, essential to an understanding of some of the most brilliant instances of the history of Flemish, or even European, art. Alas ! The reality is far more jolting. A simple glance at the chosen layout and the location for the presentation is enough to show how inadequate they are in showcasing the work (ill. 1 and 2) and its total lack of educational value. This elegant and delicate group which comes from one of the most highly regarded sites of Baroque art, and which is meant to be discovered in the silence and dimmed seclusion of a funerary chapel of rare architectural quality, is now brutally thrust into place under harsh and vulgar lighting in one of the museum’s most unpleasant spots : the hallway used by visitors - most of whom have come to see Magritte - walking by without paying the slightest attention to what is there, correctly thinking that anything presented in such a setting is not important anyway. What might be expected at the foot of a set of escalators, next to the door to an underground passage illustrated with a graphic blood red décor leading to a blank panel ? Need we say more ? We wonder what drove the Fondation Roi Baudouin, always so careful in its attention to the excellence of its contributions and mindful of its educational mission, to associate itself with such a manifestation. Might we hope that it will be open to the criticism and react accordingly ?

Verson française


Denis Coekelberghs, lundi 28 octobre 2013



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