Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten van Antwerpen) is located on Leopold Square in Antwerp in a 19th century building. It houses a rich collection of Flemish paintings – over 7,000 works – as well as a huge number of sculptures and engravings.
Note: as of early 2020, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts is closed for renovations, but many exhibits are on display in other museums in and around the city. We tell you below which ones.
History of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts
The history of the museum is linked to the Guild of Painters of Antwerp, founded by order of the City Magistrate in 1382. In 1442 it was called the Guild of St. Luke, the patron saint of painters.
Since 1664 the association was located in the stock exchange next to the Antwerp Royal Academy of fine arts.
The members of the guild (painters, jewelers, sculptors and masters of applied art) had to donate their works to the Academy. Most of their works formed the basis of the later museum.
In 1773 the guild was dissolved by order of Empress Maria Theresia.
During the French occupation in 1794 many paintings were taken to France, but in 1810 they were returned to the Franciscan monastery in Antwerp.
In 1853 the Academic Corps was opened in this monastery, whose members enjoyed privileged status.
Construction of a new building
In 1873, after a fire destroyed neighboring buildings, it was decided to build a new building to house the museum. The architects Jan Jakob Winders and Frans van Dyck under the direction of Mayor Leopold de Wahl worked on the project.
The medieval fortress had to be demolished to erect the new building. Construction lasted almost ten years. The grand opening of the museum took place on August 11, 1890.
The former mayor, Florent van Ertborn, made a significant contribution to the collection: in 1840, he donated 141 paintings from the 15th to 16th centuries to the Academy of Fine Arts.
Transition to the state and reconstruction
In 1897 the museum was separated from the Academy of Arts, and in 1898 it was transferred to the state.
In October 2010 the museum began a global reconstruction, which will last until 2020. It is planned to significantly expand the exhibition areas and equip the museum with modern technology.
Architecture of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts
The building was built in the neoclassical style. It has a fascinating façade decorated with six Corinthian columns and a bronze quadriga (the work of the sculptor Vincotta). A broad staircase gives access to the central entrance.
At the entrance, a series of paintings by Nicaise de Keyser recounting the history of Antwerp’s art school can be seen in the spacious entrance hall.
Collection and Significant Works
A large part of the museum’s collection reflects the art of Antwerp from the 16th-18th centuries: at that time it was one of Europe’s major cultural centers.
Masterpieces can be viewed here:
- Jan van Eyck’s The Virgin Mary at the Spring and St. Barbara,
- Jean Fouquet’s Our Lady and Child,
- Simone Martini, The Annunciation,
- Antonello da Messina’s Crucifixion,
- Hans Memling’s Portrait of a Man with a Roman Coin,
- Antoon van Dyck’s Portrait of the Artist Martin Pepin,
- Quinten Massijs “Saint Magdalene” and many other famous artists.
The Belgian masters James Ensor and Rik Wouters occupy a significant place in the collection.
How to get to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts
The museum is located at Leopold de Waelpaats, about two kilometers south of the central square Grote Markt.
Where to see the museum’s collection in 2020
Although the Royal Museum of Fine Arts is closed for renovation, many exhibits can be viewed at other museums in and around Antwerp, including:
- Through March 1, 2020, the “Dreams of mother-of-pearl” exhibition at Mu.ZEE in Ostend, featuring the Royal Museum’s James Ensor collection;
- through December 31, 2020, the exhibition “The Madonna meets Mad Meg” can be seen at the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp.
Exact information about where the exhibitions are on display can be obtained from the special information office on the square near the museum or on the official website of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts www.kmska.be/nl.
Tours in Antwerp
If you don’t want to explore on your own what sights to see in Antwerp, take an individual tour with a local guide. An expert in the city has already planned the best route: you won’t get tired and will have time to see all the most interesting things.
Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts is an art museum opened in Antwerp in 1810. The building on Place Leopold, housing the museum, was built between 1884 and 1890. The exhibition reflects the development of art in Antwerp, especially in the 16th and 17th century, when Antwerp was one of the most important cultural centers in Europe. In October 2010 the permanent exhibition was closed and the museum began preparations for an extensive renovation, which will begin in May 2011.
Jan van Eyck the Virgin Mary at the Spring
Antonello de Messina Crucifixion with Mary and John.
Hans Memling Portrait of a Man with a Roman Coin
Titian Pope Alexander VI presents Jacopo Pesaro to St. Peter
Antonis Van Dyck Portrait of the painter Martin Pepin
- Museums by alphabetical order
- appeared in 1810
- Antwerp museums
- Art Museums of Belgium
- Paintings from the collections of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp
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