Antwerp’s Golden Age thrived in the 16th century: the Renaissance imposed a new way of seeing the world and placed Man at the centre of the Universe. The Dutch interest in Asia, fuelled by trade prospects, opened a new artistic horizon.
Established as a permanent trading centre, Antwerp became a place where creativity flourished. It was here that Patinir initiated landscape painting and Joos van Cleve, who returned from Italy in 1511, combined the sense of balanced composition he had acquired from his travels with his meticulous observation of nature. A place of exchange that became a cultural centre, the metropolis also inspired the Mannerists who painted refined decorations associated with the late Gothic style.
However, in the 16th century, the Southern Netherlands was a small, young nation surrounded by great, old powers. And thus it became the stage for a religious battle between the Protestant North and the Spanish Catholic South. It was sacked by Spanish mercenaries in 1576 and its development gradually declined with the independence of the United Provinces.
This exhibition offers a journey through the production of this artistic centre where exchanges abounded, patrons and artists flocked, and artists expressed their creative vivacity.