You can’t say Rubens without saying Antwerp. We already encountered this brilliant artist yesterday. Today, we will get to know him even better. Your journey of discovery begins at the Cathedral of Our Lady, a monumental building that has graced the Antwerp skyline since the beginning of the 14th century. The cathedral’s architecture is Gothic, while its interior is Baroque. And that is definitely due to Rubens. Four of his masterpieces may be found here: the triptychs Elevation of the Cross, Descent from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ and the altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The cathedral both displays and challenges the master’s works. Another magnificent painting can be found on display here as well, created by contemporary master Sam Dillemans and titled Hommage aan Rubens: de kruisafneming (Homage to Rubens: Descent from the Cross).This artistic dialogue between two Antwerp masters bridges the centuries.
After the stately cathedral, you will next visit St. Charles Borromeo Church, which is sometimes considered the essential Rubens church. The master provided it with both paintings and sculptural works. An architect, painter and decorator, he contributed to the church’s tower, the facade, high altar, ceiling decorations and two chapels. His altarpiece The Return of the Holy Family was painted specifically for this location, wandered for a time, but has now come back home.
All good things come in threes, or so the saying goes. So, we will add a third Rubens encounter. And what an encounter it is: the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA).This splendid museum finally reopened its doors at the end of 2022, after a comprehensive and detailed renovation that lasted an impressive 11 years. This palace of the arts is home to a staggering collection of over 13,000 pieces. Among them are works by many great historic European painters. Antwerp’s leading artistic icon takes pride of place, of course. KMSKA’s breathtaking Rubens Hall contains sixteen of his paintings, including such masterpieces as his Adoration of the Magi and Venus Frigida. The museum also holds the world’s largest collection of works by modern master James Ensor in addition to masterpieces by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Jean Fouquet, Amedeo Modigliani, Pierre Alechinsky and many, oh so many more.