Our second event to begin the year is BRAFA, which takes place at Brussels Expo as usual, and opens on January 29th. Our stand will have a mix of Old Masters and modern works. Among the Old Masters are two related tondi by Pieter Brueghel the Younger – who had a fondness for round paintings and for pairs. These two are portraits. One depicts a lansquenet or mercenary pikeman, identifiable by his red hat with its beautifully rendered white feather; the other portrays a woman in a simple peasant head-dress. The pikeman is a study in wide-eyed surprise: he stares open-mouthed at some unseen source of wonder. The unflappable woman, meanwhile, looks on – perhaps at the same sight – with a wry smile of amusement. Both embody the curiosity, the good humour and the sharp eye for human foible that are a mark of all the Brueghels.
Alongside these expressive faces we are showing an abstract work by Alexander Calder, dating from 1949. It has a background in swathes of blue, red and yellow – like a jumbled version of the tricolour flags of Romania or Colombia. On this field sits a variety of objects : a crescent moon, a boomerang, another writhing snake. All of these things are as flat as the hanging elements of Calder’s mobiles – apart from a four-pointed star that appears to have volume. This shape figures in numerous paintings around this time. Calder had previously made a piece called Morning Star, which he claimed was the name of a ‘medieval weapon thrown from a horse … a sort of lance with little spikes’. It sounds like something that Brueghel’s astounded lansquenet would recognise.