Dieric Bouts in Flanders

Dieric Bouts is the artistic icon of Leuven. You can find this Flemish Primitive in the most important museums of the West, but he is above all at home in Flanders. Explore his legacy in his home town of Leuven, as well as in Bruges and Brussels. Get acquainted with this pioneer of the northern Renaissance.

St. Peter’s Church, Leuven

Dieric Bouts was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands, but found his home in Leuven. He spent the second half of his life there, started his family and grew into the grandmaster that we know today. Bouts lived in a large house on Minderbroedersstraat. Just a stone's throw away, in the stately St. Peter's Church, two of his masterpieces will take your breath away. The first is perhaps his most important masterpiece: The Last Supper. In this eye-catching triptych he transported Christ and his apostles to his own universe: 15th century Leuven. Because of this early application of linear perspective, Bouts is sometimes called the first painter of the northern Renaissance.   

His second masterpiece in St. Peter’s Church, The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus, will also move you. On this remarkable triptych, Saint Erasmus endures his cruel fate with a seemingly emotionless countenance. Once again, it is an example of the characteristic restraint that Bouts employed in his work. The Flemish Primitive painted both masterpieces with St. Peter’s Church in mind. Nowhere in the world can you get closer to the master than here.


Museum M

Dieric Bouts suitably honoured in the city of Leuven to this day. The museum M Leuven made an effort in 2019 to bring another gem back home. In 2019, the museum acquired the painting Christ with a crown of thorns at an auction at Christie’s in New York. This painting of Christ with a crown of thorns was created in Bouts’ workshop in around 1470. At that time, grandmasters were often surrounded and supported by apprentices and assistants and Bouts was no exception. The high quality of this painting, a few copies of which still exist, suggests that Bouts himself was closely involved in its creation. The Man of Sorrows also reflects the eye and hand of the master.

KMSK Brussels

Dieric Bouts' masterpieces are spread across the most important museums in Europe and the United States. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels(KMSKB) is one of these prestigious institutions. One of those art houses is dedicated to the universe of the old masters and there too you can find works by Bouts. Once such work is The Justice of Emperor Otto III. It consists of two panels: The execution of the innocent count and The trial by fire. The diptych tells the story of the former emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and his wife. The latter accused a count of approaching her with dishonourable intentions. The count was sentenced to death, but that turned out to be unjustified. Divine intervention made it clear that the accusations were false. Otto’s wife ended up being burned at the stake. It is a famous court scene, portrayed in Bouts’ characteristically restrained style.


St. Salvator's Cathedral, Bruges

In St. Salvator’s Cathedral in the heart of historic Bruges, we find another gem from Bouts. The cathedral is the proud home of Martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus. This extraordinary triptych is a delicate depiction of a gruesome scene: the quartering of St. Hippolytus.   

This work is both typical but also maverick. We recognise a particular use of perspective and an almost emotionless depiction of a chilling spectacle. These elements are a common thread that runs through his work. Yet this triptych is an outsider in Bouts’ other work, due to the collaboration involved in its creation. The centre and right panels were painted by Bouts himself, while the left panel is the work of another grandmaster: the Flemish Primitive Hugo van der Goes. Thus, in St. Salvator’s Church, you can witness the golden hands of two grandmasters in a single piece. A unique showpiece.

The lion’s share of Dirk Bouts’ legacy can be found in the most prominent art houses in Europe and the United States. But nowhere do you get to know this Flemish Primitive better than in his Leuven, in his Flanders.

Experience our Flemish Masters where they are at home

Nieuwpoort, Vigor Boucquet, Oordeel van Cambyses, (c) Dominique provost