3D Experience


Today, Flanders is known as the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, but the historic County of Flanders comprised areas that are now part of France and the Netherlands. In the 15th century, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges, then one of the greatest cities of Europe. Here a group of master painters, today known as the “Early Netherlandish” painters or “Flemish Primitives”, revolutionized painting. Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden and their contemporaries introduced new techniques, such as oil painting, and a new sense of realism to European art.

In the early 16th century, political and economic dominance shifted from Bruges and Ghent to the area of Brabant, in particular to Antwerp, which at the time accounted for a full 40 percent of world trade. Antwerp was the second largest city north of the Alps, the leading European financial hub, and a centre of the arts. For ten years, the greatest master painter of the Flemish Renaissance, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, had his workshop in Antwerp before he moved to Brussels. There his sons Pieter Breughel the Younger and Jan Breughel the Elder and eventually his grandson Jan Brueghel the Younger continued his tradition.

After Antwerp fell to the Spanish, the whole of Flanders went into a slow decline. The artistic tradition, however, continued well into the 17th century: Antwerp was home to the great Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens and his pupil Anthony van Dyck. The end of the Golden Age came soon after Rubens’ death: in 1648, the Treaty of Münster effectively shut down Antwerp’s port for two centuries. With the dwindling economy, the cultural significance of Flanders also declined.