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Centre for the Study of the Flemish Primitives

In the 15th century, the artists of the Southern Netherlands took our rich heritage to the very top. With the Centre for the Study of the Flemish Primitives, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage boasts an internationally renowned research unit for the study and inventorying of these paintings, which can be found in museums and collections all over the world.

Flemish masters of the 15th century online

Our main focus is to create an inventory of the works by the Flemish Primitives and unlock the knowledge of and research into these works. We have been doing this for many years through publications, unique documentation and the Friedländer database, which provides an overview of all paintings by the 15th-century Flemish masters.

You said Friedländer?

Max Jakob Friedländer (1867-1958) was the first art historian who made an inventory of Early Netherlandish painting. The first edition of his work appeared in German (1924-1937); the second, expanded edition in English (1967-1976). The latter consists of fourteen volumes, which you can download here: Early Netherlandish Painting. Our Friedländer database is actually the third - digital - edition, with a focus on the 15th century and supplemented with all the missing paintings, which were not known to Friedländer, but are known to the Centre for the Study of the Flemish Primitives.

A preview:

Jan van Eyck

Portrait of Bonne d'Artois
oil on panel
Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie

Master of Hoogstraten

Virgin with St Catherine and another Saint, and an angel bearing a fruit bowl
oil on panel
Philadelphia, PA, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Hieronymus Bosch

The Taking of Christ
oil on panel
San Diego, CA, San Diego Museum of Art

Search the Friedländer database

or
With Friedländer you will find an overview of all paintings by Flemish masters of the 15th century.

Motor for scientific research

Scientific research has been the core activity of the Centre since its foundation by Paul Coremans in 1949. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers, a masterpiece in Western art history, had just returned to Belgium after the Second World War, after being retrieved from the Altaussee salt mines near Salzburg. The Study Centre then published two pioneering studies on the polyptych: a voluminous photo book with unseen macro photos (1948) and an innovative natural science study, L'Agneau Mystique au Laboratoire (1953).

Bart Fransen: “We still stick to our foundations: our research is systematic, richly documented, interdisciplinary and available to a wide audience. We conduct research on all Flemish primitives, but Jan van Eyck has a special place in our hearts. He is our favourite and still plays a pioneering role in our work, as evidenced by the leading projects of recent years: the restoration of the Mystic Lamb, the recent publications on the polyptych, the website Closer to Van Eyck and finally the VERONA project that won the European Heritage Award.”

File cabinet

Unique documentation centre

The Study Centre has an unparalleled collection of documents on the works of the Flemish Primitives, some six thousand paintings in total, spread across museums and collections all over the world. We continuously replenish our material and make it available to researchers via multiple channels:

  • The specialised library with more than one hundred and fifty metres of documentation, exclusively on the Flemish Primitives. The catalogue is accessible online via BALaT. Would you like to come and consult our collection? Make an appointment via infoxv@kikirpa.be or phone us on +32 2 739 68 66.
  • The photo archive. Here you will find some forty thousand photographs and detail shots of works by 15th-century Flemish masters. You can consult the photographs made by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage and download them free of charge via BaLAT.
  • The Friedländer database: an online overview of all the works by the Flemish Primitives between 1400 and 1500. It is a digital continuation of the standard work on this subject: Early Netherlandish Painting by Max Jakob Friedländer.
Bart Fransen

We still stick to our foundations: our research is systematic, richly documented, interdisciplinary and available to a wide audience. We conduct research on all Flemish primitives, but Jan van Eyck has a special place in our hearts.

Bart Fransen
Publicaties Studiecentrum Detroit

Scientific publications

Three scientific series present the results of the various research projects of the Study Centre, often carried out in cooperation with local and foreign specialists:

  • The Corpus of Flemish Primitives offers a scientific analysis of paintings by the Flemish Masters between 1400 and 1500 in various important public collections. The texts are richly illustrated with detail photographs and technical documents.
  • The Repertory of Flemish Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries is dedicated to the study of Flemish paintings from little-known or difficult-to-access collections. It is an indispensable tool for further scientific study.
  • In the Contributions to the Study of the Flemish Primitives, specific subjects in 15th-century Southern Netherlandish painting are treated in detail.

Discovered a Flemish Primitive?

Are you researching a 15th-century painting by a Flemish master or do you have one in your collection? The Study Centre will be pleased to help you with free initial advice, or with its extensive expertise in art historical research, attribution and dating. Feel free to send us an e-mail with some information about your project.

We cannot value your work and we do not issue certificates. For technical research and conservation treatment, we will put you in contact with our colleagues at the Painting Studio, the Painting Lab, the Imaging Unit, the Stone Sculpture Studio or the Polychrome Wood Sculpture Studio.

Looking for an interesting internship?

Under the spell of the Flemish Primitives and looking for experience in art historical research, publishing or managing documentation? Then you have come to the right place at our Centre. We welcome art history interns from Belgium and abroad, involve them in our activities and pass on our knowledge and passion.

Travailler en interdisciplinarité tout au long de mon stage a été particulièrement marquant et mes travaux de recherches en sont, encore aujourd’hui, profondément emprunts.

Louise Longneaux (stagiaire Inbev Baillet-Latour, 2016)

Scientific Committee

In our scientific activities, we are advised and assisted by a committee of specialists from the academic and museum sectors:

Prof Dr Dominique Allart (Université de Liège) | Prof Dr Barbara Baert (KU Leuven) | Till-Holger Borchert (Groeninge Museum, Bruges) | Dr Véronique Bücken (KMSKB-MRBAB, Brussels) | Dr Christina Currie (KIK-IRPA) | Prof Dr Jean-Marie Duvosquel (ULB, Brussels) | Prof Dr Valentine Henderiks (ULB, Brussels) | Prof Dr Didier Martens (ULB, Brussels) | Prof Dr C.J.M. Bücken (KMSKB-MRBAB, Brussels) | Prof Dr Véronique Bücken (KMSKB-MRBAB, Brussels) | Dr Didier Martens (ULB, Brussels) | Prof Dr Maximiliaan Martens (Ghent University) | Prof Dr Catheline Périer-D'Ieteren (ULB, Brussels) | Jean-Luc Pypaert | Prof Dr Ron Spronk (Kingston University, Canada, and University of Nijmegen) | Dr Cyriel Stroo (KIK-IRPA) | Dr Dominique Vanwijnsberghe (KIK-IRPA).

Contact the Centre for the Study of the Flemish Primitives

Bart Fransen
Bart Fransen
Head
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Team members


Stagiaires

Dagmar Thielen (KU Leuven)
Leila Mignot (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Mónica Rosales Fuentevilla (Universiteit Utrecht)
Ricardo Neto (Universiteit Utrecht)

Je kan ons bereiken via ons algemeen mailadres infoxv@kikirpa.be en telefoonnummer +32 2 739 68 66.