Art lovers in India will soon be able see original Flemish masterpieces by legendary artists of the 17th century at an exhibition to be held in Mumbai.

The City of Antwerp, the Antwerp Port Authority and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp have come together to organise the exhibition of paintings and engravings from November 28 to February 9 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly Prince Of Wales Museum).

Flemish paintings, which flourished between 15th and 17th Centuries, illustrated religious events, civil war in Europe or self portraits. Painters such as Paul Rubens, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens and David Teniers have created some of the best known Flemish masterpieces.

Flemish is the Dutch language as spoken in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium.

For the first time, India will host some of the Flemish masterpieces from Antwerp produced during 17th Century. The paintings highlight aspects of Baroque art from Antwerp as well as daily activity and family life. Baroque painting is associated with the Baroque cultural movement, often identified with Absolutism, the Counter Reformation and Catholic Revival.

Rubens had a strong influence on 17th Century visual culture. His innovations helped define Antwerp as one of Europe's major artistic cities. His student Van Dyck was instrumental in establishing new directions in English portraiture.

Princess Astrid of Belgium will open the exhibition on November 27. The exhibition will showcase 28 exclusive paintings of the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and 25 engravings of the print room of the Plantin-Moretus museum.

Recently a group of journalists from India had a preview of the paintings coming to Mumbai. at a warehouse inside the Antwerp port . Since the Royal Museum of Fine Arts was under renovation, these paintings were stored in the warehouse.

There is little knowledge about Flemish paintings in India. The exhibition in Mumbai aims to promote the Antwerp city, the port and the masterpieces, said Marc Van Peel, Deputy Mayor of Antwerp City and President of Antwerp Port Authority in Belgium at his office inside the Town Hall in Antwerp.

Both Mumbai and Antwerp are cosmopolitan ports steeped in history and built on a foundation of commerce. By bringing these Baroque masterpieces from Antwerp to Mumbai, the exhibition builds a bridge not only between the two cities but also between the past and present, he said.

The 17th century is also called ‘the Bollywood’ of painting by Paul Huvenne, the Administrator-General of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, and hence the link with Mumbai.

“We are spending nearly Rs 10 crore to bring these paintings to India,” said Raj Khalid, Representative of Antwerp Port in India.

(This correspondent was in Antwerp at the invitation of the Antwerp Port Authority).

(This article was published on October 25, 2013)
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