Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the Groeningemuseum and the Memling Musueum

I spent all day today in Bruges and saw a lot of amazing things. I began in the Vismarkt (Fish Market), which I could smell from at least a block away. I watched several sellers quickly de-bone and cut sections of fish to set out for sale. I then moved on to the Market Square area to climb to the top of the bell tower for a panoramic view. 366 steps! But what a view! I then saw the two main museums in Bruges. First was the Groeninemuseum, which houses a collection of early Flemish Primitive art and extends all the way through Bruges' neoclassicism, romanticism, impressionism, symbolism, post-modern, etc. periods. Featured especially are artists from Bruges. Highlights included Hugo van der Goes "The Dormitation" (1470-82), Rogier van der Weyden "Saint Luke Drawing the Madonna" (1490-1510), Jan van Eyck "Madonna with Canon Joris van der Peale" (1436), and Gerard David "Baptism of Christ" (1510-1515). I had studied all of these paintings in my Northern Renaissance class and was very excited to see all of the details up close. The rich fabrics, jewels, and metals are especially beautifully painted. After the Groeningemuseum, I walked next door to the Church of Our Lady, which is one of the tallest structures in Bruges. You can see the tower from many of the streets. Here, I found one of the only Michelangelo statues not located in Italy. It is a Madonna and Child and is exquisite. From the church, I moved almost next door to the St. John’s Hospital Museum, which also contains the small Memling Museum. The hospital portion was interesting, displaying various tools, paintings, and explanations of the hospital during past centuries. There were many early, mostly anonymous, Flemish religious works displayed as well. Additionally, an ivory exhibit was running, and detailed much information about the introduction and uses of ivory during the 14th century when it was brought to the Flanders area. The Memling Museum portion is home to the Shrine of St. Ursula, and five other Memling paintings including a large triptych. The shrine was my main goal of visiting and it definitely did not disappoint. Much larger than I had anticipated; this work of art displays eight main panels of the legend of St. Ursula and also 6 smaller round paintings in the roof section. A wonderful surprise in this section was also a loan from the Groeningemuseum: Bosch’s “Last Judgment.” I always love Bosch’s imagery, although much of it falls on the strange side. The triptych had many fantastical and imaginary animals and sights, a truly original work equaled by no one. After the Memling and St. John’s Hospital Museums, I decided to enjoy a little more of the sights of the city. I walked through busy, cobblestone streets of tourists, hearing bits of Flemish and French conversations from locals, and enjoying the wonderful weather. I found another church called St. Jacobs Kerk in a residential neighborhood, parts of it date from the 1200s. Bruges still seems like a city from another century and I am excited to explore more of tomorrow!