09 September, 2015

Rainy Antwerp

Can there be a better way of spending a rainy day than going to a museum?
Unfortunately, we had lots of the former in Antwerp. Luckily however, the city has a number of wonderful exhibitions, too. In fact, I decided to re-visit some I had visited before, but I guess you can't go wrong with Plantin-Moretus and the Rubenshuis.
Both are located in the old city center and offer timeless pieces of art.

Plantin-Moretus, named after the famous Flemish printers, will take you back to a time when writing and reading was art, and owning books meant owning a fortune. A time when the writing books letter by letter moved to printing them, which made it much easier, faster and cheaper to distribute ideas and knowledge.
It's a huge house build in old Flemish style, with a number of works by Peter Paul Rubens, decorated furtniture and a typical courtyard.
But most of all, it's full of books and book-printing tools. Printing machines, tons of lead letters to choose from, and examples of books that emerged from the printers' office.
Lots of them were religious writings, such as bibles and religious illustrations.
On the other hand, there are countless of sientific prints, too, featuring plants, animals and natural phenomenons.
Old music types
And a pretty large collection of medicine and anatomy related stuff that is currently shown in a special exhibition. Some of the books have even been digitalised, which allows you to read through hundreds of years old books just by ticking a screen. 
The exhibition also shows before and after examples of how books were designed - from simple sketches to copperplates and final prints.
You, too, can see a number of atlases, from Mercator's collection to prints on local sights and attractions.
Very Flemish: colourful tiles
Plantin's library - any bookworm's dream :)
Surprisingly small beds... Not that people were small, they simply believed sleeping in upright position would be good for digestion.

Second part of the museum-day: a visit to Antwerp's most famous son, resp. his old city home and painting office. The Rubens house is huge for todays' conditions and it must have been considered a palace when the master lived and worked there.
Again, the interior is throughout decorated with beautiful furniture and artworks. Comparable to a painting manufacture, Rubens employed painters of different specialities to work on his pictures, working on landscapes or animals according to his sketches. No wonder that many of the exposed pieces are the work of his students and colleagues.
They give an impression on what people used to eat back then
How they stored their treasures
How they pressed their linen
And how they brought those funny collars into shape :)
Drunkness, as beautiful as it can be.
Interior of a church, painted on marble.
One of Rubens' sketches
And some finished works
Among the portraits are many childrens' ones. Some posed in their representative clothings, but due to high infant mortality it was not unusual to picture them on the death bed, as it was often the parents' only chance to get a portrait of their children.
Again, the house is full of wooden details and colourful tilts, however, the garden is a bit neglected. The ducks seem to like it anyway, and so does this funny guy. Ever seen a laughing statue?

Another prominent work of Rubens, the huge baroque church of Carolus Borromeus. Typical for its time, it's full of rich decorations made of wood and marble.

~ to be continued ~

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