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bruegelnow has written 31 posts for BruegelNow

Searching for Niclaes Jongelinck’s House

One of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s greatest patrons was Niclaes Jongelinck, who owned 16 of his paintings.  The paintings were hung at Niclaes Jongelinck’s villa, called ‘Hof Ter Beke’, which was then located outside of the city walls of Antwerp.

Sadly, Niclaes Jongelinck’s house is no longer standing.  As I was preparing for a trip to Antwerp, I thought it would be interesting to attempt to locate where his house would have stood in present-day Antwerp.  I set about trying to locate his house in the hustle and bustle of modern-day Antwerp.

I enlisted the staff at Antwerp’s Urban Planning, Archaeology and Monuments Department in helping me pinpoint the exact location where his house would have stood.  The Antwerp team indicated that it was very difficult to locate the exact position of the original building on a present day map as displayed on 17th century maps. The old maps do not have the necessary precision to use them in a computer geographical information system (GIS).  However, as you will read, they did provide remarkable insight into the likely location of the house.

The Antwerp team reported that one author, Rutger Tijs, indicated that the house of Jongelinck is located between the Hof Ter Bekestraat, Sint-Laureisstraat, Haantjeslei and Pyckestraat.  According to Van Weghe, in 1885 the then-opened Moonstraat ran across the estate, which the Antwerp team thinks is the last ‘Hof Ter Beke’.  (The current site is industrial buildings.)  The Antwerp team investigated the site in 2005, but did not find the remains of structures older than the early 20th century.

Others also investigated the likely location of Niclaes Jongelinck’s house.  The Antwerp team reported that Plomteux, Prims and Vande Weghe stated that the site where the villa owned by Niclaes Jongelinck once stood can be located between the current streets Hof Ter Bekestraat, Broederminstraat, Lange Elzenstraat and Oudekerkstraat.  The Antwerp team agrees with this conclusion and indicate that on the maps of 1617 and 1624 the Jonckelinck villa is clearly shown on the south side of the present day Markgravelei while the other possible location (cf. Rutger Tijs) is clearly indicated on the north side.

According to Vande Weghe, in 1872 a new street called the Jongelincxstraat was opened on the estate witch was then owned by the Van den Broeck family.  Prior to their ownership, Madam Schul was the owner.  Further, in 1873 a new street, the Coebergerstraat, was opened on the estate.  According to the Antwerp team this portion was owned by Van Put and Wilmotte.

The Antwerp team says that it does not seem likely that any of the original buildings survived.  According to the list with building permits held at the City Archives, the area was built up in a short period of time from 1872 onward. The largest part of these houses are one family residential buildings dating from 1872 forward.

Niclaes Jongelinck’s villa (indicated on maps in 1617 and 1624 but not on the map from 1698) or at least a building which it replaced is drawn on the 1802 and 1814 cadastral drawings.  On the 1836 drawing it is not present.  The Antwerp team assumes that it was demolished somewhere between 1814 and 1836. When the Antwerp team tried to project the 1814 drawing on a geographical information system present day map, it seems that the buildings location is under or in the neighborhood of the present day building Coebergerstraat 35-37.  The team indicates that the precision of this location is as good as the precision of the 1814 map and the number of comparison points they found.  Thus, they conclude that an error of a few meters, but not more, is possible.

The map that you can see below shows a portion of the 1814 map with the current map imprinted on it in red. The two above mentioned places are marked with a purple circle.  (You can download the PDF by clicking on the “Villa with current map” link below.)

So, for those going to Antwerp, we at Bruegelnow.com recommend a visit to Coebergerstraat 35-37!

Villa

Villa with current map

Here is a current view of Coebergerstraat 35-37

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Many thanks to Georges Troupin, technisch bestuursassistent, Stad Antwerpen, Stadsontwikkeling, archeologie, monumenten- en welstandszorg, for his substantial assistance solving this puzzle!

The following literature was quoted:

Greet Bedeer en Luc Janssens, Steden in beeld, Antwerpen, 1200-1800, Brussel 1993

Guido De Brabander, Na-kaarten over Antwerpen, Brugge 1988

G. Plomteux G. & R. Steyaert met medewerking van L. Wylleman, Inventaris van het cultuurbezit in België, Architectuur, Stad Antwerpen, Bouwen door de eeuwen heen in Vlaanderen 3NC, 1989 Brussel – Turnhout.

Floris Prims, De littekens van Antwerpen, Antwerpen 1930

Floris Prims en H. Fierckx, Atlas der Antwerpsche Stadsbuitenijen van 1698, Anterpen 1933

Rutger Tijs, de twaalfmaandencyclus over het leven van Pieter Bruegel als interieurdecoratie voor het huis van plaisantie ‘ter Beken’ te Antwerpen. in J. Veeckman (red.) Berichten en Rapporten over het Antwerps Bodemonderzoek en Monumentenzorg 3, Antwerpen 1999, p. 117-133.

Roberd Vande Weghe, Geschiedenis van de Antwerpse straatnamen. Antwerpen 1977.

Cartographic sources are below:

Marchionatus Sacri Romani Imperii, in P.Keerius, La Germanie Inférieure.1617 Library UFSIA

Marchionatus Sacri Romani Imperii, Claes Janszoon Visscher 1624 City Archive

Dubray, Plan du territoire de la ville d’Anvers divisé en 5 sections, levé géométriquement par Dubray arpenteur géographe du Depart[ement] des 2 Nethes en l’an X 1802, City Archive 12#3944

Dubray en J. Witdoeck, Plan de la cinquième section IIIeme partie lévé géométriquement par Dubray arpenteur géographe du Departement des Deux Nethes en l’an X”; “Renvoi indicatif du supplement des parties qui ont été fait au plan d’après l’Atlas [met legende] fait par moi géomètre soussigné, le supplement à ce plan […] et conformement à l’Atlas du 15 Mars 1812. Anvers, le 21 Decembre 1814, F.D. Witdoeck. 1814 City Archive 12#4270

C.J. Van Lyre, Atlas der Antwerpsche Stadsbuitenijen. 1698. Cf. literature Prims

J. Witdoeck, 5e wijk genaamd extra muros der stad Antwerpen. 1836, City Archive 12#3077

Alouïs Scheepers, Plan géométrique parcellaire et de nivellement de la ville d’Anvers et des communes limitrophes dressé et gravé à l’échelle de 1 à 5000 par Alouis Scheepers conducteur des travaux communaux au service de Monsieur Th. Van Bever, ingénieur de la ville, publié sous les auspices de l’administration communale. 1868. 1868, City Archive 12#8824

Alouïs Scheepers, Plan geometrique parcellaire et de nivellement de la ville d’Anvers et des communes limitrophes dressé et gravé par Aloïs Scheepers, conducteur de travaux communaux au service de monsieur G. Royers, ingénieur de la ville publié sous les auspices de l’administration communale. Edition de 1886. 1886, City Archive 12#12541

“Children’s Games” Variant – What Do We Know?

Over the past few months we have had an opportunity to study an interesting “Children’s Games” variant.

We have studied the infrared reflectography image taken, as well as an X-ray image and several images created with various light and dark shading.

Let’s review the images and discus what they reveal about the painting:

First, this image (below) clearly indicates that the painting is quite dirty through age and discoloration of varnish.

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This image (below) with light raking from the right side make clear the few small places on the painting which have been cleaned, so the bright colors of the original panel come through, such as in the upper right corner where the sky has been cleaned and the middle left, where the young girl has been cleaned.

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An ultraviolet light image (below)  shows clearly some of the damage to the painting that has occurred over the decades.  The most pronounced damage is along edge where the first and second panels were joined together.  There also is damage in the middle of the painting with a few scratches.

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One of the mysteries that we are trying to solve with this analysis is to determine when the painting was created.  The image below of raking light on the back of the painting clearly shows that the 3 boards which comprise the painting were created with saw-type tools, and don’t appear to be created by a machine.

c2015-3_rak-back_001

A recently published monograph “Frames and supports in 15th- and 16th-century southern netherlandish painting” by Hélène Verougstraete has been instructive in our analysis of the marks on the back of the panel.  This has been instructive relative to how the panel was created.  While none of the images in the monograph are an exact match, some, such as the figure a (page 33) appear to be somewhat close.

However, we aren’t able to date the panel with certainty based on this information.

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The image below clearly shows the repair that panel has undergone, most noticeably the increased support that the panel has had to repair and support the joining of the first two panels, where the damage in the other panels can readily be seen.

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We are continuing to examine this panel and look forward to sharing our findings here!

Bruegel’s Children’s Games – A Curious (Old) Copy Has Just Surfaced

Recently we’ve been given the opportunity to examine first hand a very interesting copy of Bruegel’s Children’s Games.  The painting is large – 28″ X 39″, seemingly painted on a single panel (or two panels), potentially painted on larch (birch).

Below is the original version from 1560

children-s-games-1560

Below is the copy from ?

Children's Games Copy

What makes this copy so interesting is how it diverges from Bruegel’s original.  There are many Children’s games that are missing from the copy, as seen in the illustrations below.

Figures that appear in both versions are in yellow.  Those not highlighted are missing from the curious copy:

Children's Games differences highlighted

This blog will document the research done on this painting to ascertain when it was painted, and potentially who painted it.

We love a detective hunt!

The Value of Attribution – A Brueghel Case study and a Potential $350K Payday

It comes to no surprise to any collector that a firm attribution to an painter positively impacts a painting’s value.  But what does this mean in the world of Bruegel / Brueghel?  The recent attribution of “Wine on St. Martin’s Day” to Bruegel the Elder from a previous attribution of Brueghel the Younger catipulted this painting’s value to 25M Euros if sold on the open market (1).  An upcoming auction for Brueghel the Younger’s “The Wedding Dance” at Palais Dorotheum on October 21, 2014 will test the value of attribution for his son, in one of Bruegel / Brueghel’s most popular painting motifs.

In February of last year at rather rough looking painting of “The Wedding Dance” was put up for auction at Bill Hood and Sons in Florida in the USA.

rough 4

This work, “attributed to Brueghel the Younger” was estimated at $10,000, but on the day of the auction soared above the estimate to land at a sale price of $21,000.

brueghel rough 1

In the time since the auction, the painting was carefully restored, and the owner (or Palais Dorotheum, the seller) worked with the preminant scholar in the area of Brueghel the Younger, Klaus Ertz, to determine whether the work was an autograph Brueghel the Younger.

The Dorotheum website explains the attribution, “The present painting was analysed using X-ray technology and infrared reflectology. The analysis found that the pigment matched that usually used by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Furthermore, the manner of working is that of Pieter Brueghel; the wooden panel was prepared using a white chalk base and the imprimatura was applied on the diagonal using a wide brush, as is the case with most of Brueghel’s paintings. The entire composition was meticulously sketched on to the prepared panel. In the underdrawing there are multiple pentimenti.”  (The phrase “meticulously sketched” is interesting, since Christina Currie and Dominique Allart in “The Brueg(h)el Phenomenon” show that Brueghel the Younger and his workshop typically used pouncing to transfer images from the preparatory cartoon to the surface of the paining.  Hopefully Currie and Allart can examine this painting to tell us more about how the image was tranferred, since it is only one of two examples of this scene in round (“tondi”) form.)

The Dorotheum description concludes by stating, “The present painting is of an exceedingly high quality and should be considered among Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s masterpieces.”

In other words, the attribution raises the price from $21,000 to up to $378,000 (the high end of the sales estimate, which I think this painting will achieve.)

Below is an image of the restored patining on sale at the auction.

Happy bidding!!

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(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11402594

Bruegel’s Mirror – Exhibition

A wonderful new exhibition at the Royal Cornwall Museum from September 20 to November 8 2014 explores Bruegel the Elder via art created by Laurence Smith.

From the introduction:

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569) was a Flemish artist who illustrated

people’s everyday lives and the worlds they inhabited. His work is often seen

as being one of the earliest forms of social satire in art history.

In the drawing Nobody and Somebody (1558) the character of Nobody

is shown staring at himself in a mirror, below Bruegel has written the line

“Nobody looks at himself”. Bruegel loved to turn proverbs into pictures and in

doing so held his own mirror up to what he saw as the foolishness of society.

Bruegel was predominantly known for his large, colourful oil paintings of, what

were known as, ‘peasant scenes’. These were commissioned by wealthy

patrons and rarely seen in public. However, many of his drawings were made

into engravings allowing them to be reproduced and seen by a far wider

audience.

Laurence Smith has made a study of Bruegel’s little known graphic works and

turned some of these drawings and engravings into oil paintings whilst trying

to mirror the colour and energy of Bruegel’s paintings. Enlarged and vividly

coloured Bruegel’s highly detailed graphic images can now be seen like never

before.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder wanted to hold up a theatrical mirror in order for us to

see our own selves, with all our virtues and vices, reflected back at us.

Brueghel in the Broom Closet

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Of course it is not unusual to find a Brueghel painting in a public art collection, or in a private museum, or, increasingly, in the residence of a wealthy citizen of Russia.  What is unusual is finding a Brueghel in an out of the way location.  In what is perhaps the strangest setting in which I’ve seen a Bruegel, recently I visited the Church of Saint-Severin Paris’ Latin Quarter knowing that this church had a large format Brueghel, The Crucifixion.

Upon entering the typically fairly dark interior of the Roman Catholic church, I scanned the walls for the painting.  I wasn’t surprised that I did not see it, since I expected that it might be in one of the small chapels of the church.  

After circling the church several times and not seeing the painting, I noticed an open door into a sort of closet, or anti-chamber, where there was activity.  It appeared that the church was preparing for a concert performance.

Amid the activity I stepped into the small room, scanned the walls, and much to my surprise, just above the door to another room, was the painting.  It hung approximately 15 feet above floor level and gleamed luminously.  While members of the choir were running in and out of the room, I stood back and took in the painting.  It was fantastic, large, and had the attributes of a typical Brueghel work.

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The painting is similar to other versions of the painting, showing Christ and two others being crucified in a large format landscape.  A city extends further in the distance with the temple of Jerusalem.  A field of wheat can be viewed behind the figure on the left. In the background two peaks can be seen connected by a natural bridge. Marlier notes that in this version of the painting, the sky is darker than in other versions.  It is thought that this painting is a copy after a lost work by the elder Bruegel.

As the activity in the small church room was dying down, it appeared that a concert performer was preparing to lock the door and wanted me to leave.  I exited the room, and the door was closed behind me.

I wondered if my visit hadn’t coincided with musicians preparing for a performance, if I would have been able to see the painting.  It seemed like the door to this room was normally closed, and only happened to be open because of the performers preparing for the concert.

In life, as with seeing Bruegel/Brueghel paintings, timing is everything.  Particularly when there is a Brueghel in a broom closet-like setting.

Two Outstanding Bruegel-Related Paris Galleries: Galerie D’Art Saint-Honoré and De Jonckheere Gallery

Paris is home to the only two galleries that specialize in work by the family of Bruegel.  For those interested in Brueghel, these galleries are “can’t miss” opportunities.  Fortunately, during a visit to Paris earlier this year, I was able to tour both galleries.

Galerie D’Art Saint-Honoré

The Galerie has been in existence since 1984 when it was established by Monika Kruch.  I spent a wonderful afternoon with Jérôme Montcouquiol  discussing the Galerie and all things Bruegel.

Mr. Montcouquiol discussed with me the recently concluded and very well received exhibit “The Brueghel Dynasty”.  The exhibit not only included works from the Galerie, but several private collections contributed works to the exhibit.  Included in the exhibit were works from  by Jan the Elder, Jan the Younger, Pieter the Younger and others.  A highlight of the exhibit, and a work that can be seen in the Gallery, is “The Wedding Feast.”  This version differs from many others (and differs from the version painted by Bruegel the Elder) in that two figures can be seen in the loft in the top left portion of the painting.

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We spoke about the Galerie’s upcoming exhibition in the Maastricht, Netherlands art fair, where the gallery exhibits each year.   Mr. Montcouquiol indicated that they are looking forward to another outstanding show. 

The gallery only acquires works of exceptional quality, and strives to showcase works of the Brueghel family as well as major works of other artists of the period.

Galerie De Jonckheere

Paris is one of two locations for Galerie De Jonckheere.  This galerie has been catering to Bruegel-related collectors for nearly 40 years.  I spent a lovely hour in the Galerie speaking with the staff.  The Galerie has had both large scale and more intimate Bruegel-related works, including a wonderful version of the Peasant Wedding Dance by Pieter the Younger (see below).  Collectors from North America, Europe and increasingly Russia frequent this gallery to view the latest additions to its collections.

wEDDING dANCE

Like many galleries, locating quality Bruegel-related works is difficult in this internet-connected environment.  After a new work is acquired, it is reviewed and cleaned to the gallery’s exacting specifications.  The works gracing the Galerie’s walls are of the highest standard.

The Galerie has experimented with exhibiting in New York (MANE) as a way to exposure new collectors to its work.  This sounds like an ideal way to ensure that new collectors are aware of the magnificence of the Bruegel family.

The Galerie uses its own expertise, with the extensive expertise of Georges and François De Jonckheere, as well as occasionally calling in experts to authenticate works.

In conclusion, both galleries offer outstanding works and are well worth a visit when in Paris.  If you aren’t able to visit Paris, the galleries have wonderful websites that can provide a fine view of the current paintings on offer.

Galerie D’Art Saint-Honoré: http://www.art-st-honore.com/en/

De Jonckheere Gallery: http://www.dejonckheere-gallery.com

Detective Hunt for a Lost Bruegel

Laurence Smith has conducted interesting research on a “lost” Bruegel work.  After viewing a black and white print in “Pierre Bruegel L’Ancien” by Charles de Tolnay (1935) , Smith began doing research on the van der Geest collection that contained the lost work and found a passage in the Phillippe and Francois Roberts-Jones “Pieter Bruegel” (1997) monograph stating:

“ … One of the richest collections in Antwerp in the mid-seventeenth century was that belonging to Peeter Stevens, which contained, besides works by Bruegel, paintings by Van Eyck, Quentin Metsys, Hans Holbein, Rubens, and Van Dyck. A wealthy cloth merchant and city benefactor who gave alms to the poor and was a patron of the arts, he appears in the center of Willem van Haecht’s painting of 1628, The Collection of Cornelis van der Geest. Peeter Stevens also annotated a copy of Van Mander’s Schilder-Boeck with the statement that he had seen twenty-three paintings by Bruegel, of which he possessed a dozen. The catalogue “Of the most renowned Rarities belonging to the late Mr. Peeter Stevens … Which will be sold the thirteenth day of the month of August and the following days of this year 1688, in the House of the deceased” listed: “By Bruegel the elder: A very famous Heath, where peasant men and Women go to market with a cart & a swine, & others”-a lost painting which appears on the left-hand wall in The Collection of Cornelis van der Geest, from whom Stevens had bought it (a drawing with watercolor, in the print room in Munich, also shows the same subject); …”

Market Day - new

Was this really a lost Bruegel the Elder painting that now only survives in a watercolor of the collector van der Geest’s paintings?

Smith had the curator of the Rubenshuis Antwerp send him a close up photo of the section of the painting with the Bruegel. The Bruegel is high up on the left hand side and consequently at a steep angle.  Smith scanned the photo and attempted to straighten it and pull it into a rectangle. The artist of the watercolor was careful, Smith notes, “to include some detail and seems to have included enough to recognize the wagon and the tree and two or three of the people going to market. The colouring is dark…”

Smith then contacted the print room in Munich and was able to obtain a color print of the watercolor.  Smith found that the print had bits of color to distinguish different portions of the print, but it was not very helpful in discerning if the original was by Bruegel the Elder.  If the work wasn’t by Bruegel the Elder, could it have been by his son Jan?

Market-Day-explained

Smith studied the work of Jan Brueghel the Elder, and noted that he used the market day subject several times and also included similar images of peasants walking along a path in his other painting.  Smith notes that the jug is shown in the watercolor without a hand supporting it, which differs from his other works.

On the question of whether Pieter Bruegel the Elder initiated the design that Jan copied or whether the original in the van de Geest collection should have been attributed to his son, Smith notes that it is impossible to know for certain, but concludes that it appears to be a Jan original rather than that of the elder Bruegel.  Based on my knowledge, I would concur with this conclusion as well.

Not only is Smith conducting this type of interesting research, but he also is running an upcoming Bruegel exhibition of a selection of engravings and oil studies.  The exhibit, at the Folk Museum at Helston in Cornwall, runs from May 13 – 30, 2013.  You can find Smith’s website at http://pieter-bruegel.co.uk

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Brueghels In Australia – “Peasant” Wedding Dance” at the University of Melbourne

Currie & Allart’s “The Brueg(h)el Phenomenon” monograph set which I wrote about recently has been an invaluable resource in conducting research about a Pieter Brueghel III painting.

As background, in preparation for a recent trip to Australia, I was interested in determining if any works derived from Bruegel the Elder were to be found on the continent.  I learned of a “Peasant Wedding Dance,” attributed to Pieter Brueghel III, in the collection of the University of Melbourne.

According to the University of Melbourne’s catalog entry written by Dr. Jaynie Anderson … “In 1968 Professor Carl de Gruchy bought the work from the Pulitzer Gallery, London, which had bought it from a Dr. J. Henschen of Basel, Switzerland.”  Denise de Gruchy gave the work to the University in memory of her brother in 1994. The work is thought to be from the early seventeenth-century (c. 1610), and is 116 X 138.5 cm on canvas.  The Melbourne work is neither signed nor dated, and is currently displayed in the Karagheusian Room at University House (see below – “Peasant Wedding Dance” by Pieter Brueghel III, Melbourne Museum of Art Collection.)

"Peasant Wedding Dance" University of Melbourne

I’ve been interested in learning more about Pieter Bruegel III’s paintings, since there is little known about the artist or his works.  I’ve uncovered no monographs about him, and scant bibliographic information is available.  It seems that Brueghel III was born in 1589 and is said to have first worked in, then later taken over, the workshop of his father, Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Thanks to Currie & Allart’s detailed description of the painting, I learned that “Wedding Dance in the Open Air” (which has the same figural group as “Peasant Wedding Dance”) was a popular small-format (approx.. 40 cm X 60 cm on panel) work for Brueghel the Younger, with over 100 versions cataloged.  The Melbourne version does not appear in Klaus Ertz’s (2000) or Georges Marlier’s (1969) catalogue raisonne of Brueghel the Younger, nor in Currie & Allart.

Most of the Brueghel the Younger compositions of “Wedding Dance in the Open Air” follow the format seen below, which Currie & Allart refer to as a “left handed” orientation (see below: “Wedding Dance in the Open Air” by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium)

"Wedding Dance in the Open Air" by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium

However, an engraving after a presumably lost Bruegel the Elder painting as well as copies by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Bruegel’s contemporary Maerten van Cleve show a “right handed” orientation, which is the style of the Melbourne painting.  If the Melbourne work is by Brueghel III, then he would have vastly increased the size of the work, reversed the format of his father’s work by painting a “right handed” version, and switched from panel to canvas.  I have searched databases listing Brueghel II’s works, and found no other horizontal version of the painting by either Brueghel the Younger or Brueghel III that had a right hand orientation in the small format.  (There is one vertical format signed by Pieter the Younger.)

Viewing the painting in person, it is certainly “Bruegelian,” but lacks the subtlety and painterly expertise of the other Pieter the Younger versions.  The work is particularly unrefined in certain areas, such as in the middle right section of the work with the men near the tree.  Further, the color of the clothing of the dancers in the Brueghel III work differ substantially from the colors in the Brueghel the Younger versions.

It is hoped that an X-radiograph can be created for the Melbourne work, which would provide additional insight.  In addition, it would be helpful to view photographs of the reverse of the painting to learn if they would provide further clues regarding the creation of the painting.  Finally, since the Brueghel the Younger versions were painted with a cartoon, it would be interesting to examine the work to attempt to determine if a scaled up cartoon was used.

Thanks to Currie & Allart’s monograph, I was able to very quickly do further research  into this rare and interesting example of a Bruegel-related work in Australia.

(My gratitude to Dr. Jayne Anderson, Professor, Art History and Robyn Hovey, Collections Manager, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, for their generous assistance discussing and viewing this work.)

Brueghels in the Bunker

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The wine-red walls of the Brueghel exhibition hall at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art are now bare, like the crime scene of a daring art heist.

Tel Aviv’s leading art museum, spooked by rocket attacks on Israel’s cultural capital, moved nearly 200 works Friday into a rocket-proof safe the size of an auditorium — including some 100 works painted by relatives of Flemish Renaissance master Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

“Even if there’s a very small possibility (of damage), we don’t play around. We don’t take chances,” said Doron J. Lurie, the senior curator and chief conservator. “We’ve guarded them like our own kids.”

One other Israeli art museum followed suit, hauling some of its most prized artworks into fortified vaults deep underground to protect them from the current round of Israel-Palestinian fighting. For nearly a week, the Israeli military has waged air strikes against Gaza, while Palestinian militants have barraged Israel with rocket fire.

In the southern city of Ashdod, which has suffered more frequent rocket barrages because of its proximity to Gaza, the curator of the Ashdod Art Museum — Monart Center took down 15 works of leading contemporary Israeli artist Tsibi Geva. On Sunday, he stashed them in a vault four floors underground designed to withstand rocket fire and biological weapons.

“It’s chutzpah to take a chance on them,” said curator Yuval Biton, using the Yiddish word for “audacious.” It was the first time the Ashdod museum had hid its art in the vault since it opened in 2003.

Israel has seen its fair share of incoming fire over the past decade: Hezbollah launched rockets that rained down during the 2006 Lebanon war, and rockets from Gaza have repeatedly been fired into Israel’s south.

During fighting in Gaza four years ago, the art museum in the southern city of Beersheba moved works from unfortified storage to a reinforced vault in city hall, said Idit Amihai, the top government official in charge of museums.

But most of Israel’s leading museums in the heartland cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv — far from traditional rocket range — have had little reason to fortify artworks in the past.

Even during the current fighting, not all museums have rushed to protect their treasures. The Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, which displays Near Eastern antiquities and other art, left its works in place. “We don’t get into a panic and take stuff from the glass showcases,” museum spokeswoman Miri Tsedaka said.

And, despite one instance of rockets aimed toward Jerusalem that landed south of the city, no extra security precautions have been taken at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the country’s central museum housing its most prized antiquities and cultural possessions. “It’s business as usual,” said director James Snyder.

Lenny Wolfe, a prominent Jerusalem antiquities dealer, said he hasn’t moved his valuable ancient objects from his bank’s safe deposit box. “I’m more concerned about my own safety and the safety of my own family than a few bits of pottery,” Wolfe said.

The only other time the Tel Aviv museum rushed to save its works was during the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi Scud missiles pounded the seaside metropolis. At that time, the museum whisked its entire collection of paintings and sculptures into its large vault.

The works that were moved into the safe on Friday include one of the Jewish world’s most iconic paintings — Polish artist Maurycy Gottlieb’s 1878 work, “Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur” — as well as some 100 works by sons and relatives of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and one precious painting by the master himself, the mid-16th century “The Resurrection of Christ.”

The Brueghel exhibit had already been crippled by Israel’s image as a dangerous place, said the curator, Lurie. He knew museums wouldn’t lend him many works by Brueghel himself, so he focused on persuading museums and collectors to lend him works by Brueghel’s descendants.

Then, a month before the “All His Sons: The Brueghel Dynasty” exhibition opened in August, two foreign museums backed down on their promise to loan two important paintings by the Flemish master’s sons because of heightened talk of a possible Iran-Israel war, Lurie said.

“‘Are you serious that you’re asking for this painting for summer 2012?'” Lurie recalled museum representatives telling him.

Now the exhibition’s works are behind a heavy, hulking metal door with an outsized combination lock. Wearing white gloves, Lurie turned a large silver wheel in the middle of the door and struggled to pull it open to show some of the stored paintings.

Despite concerns about the risks, top masterworks are frequently exhibited in Israeli museums on loan from world institutions and collectors. Displaying masterpieces is a trickier proposition in the West Bank: It took yearlong negotiations with Israel’s army and Dutch museum officials to get a $7 million Pablo Picasso masterpiece safely into a West Bank gallery in 2011.

Only a few rockets have whistled over the skies of Tel Aviv during the current conflict, and the city is considered safer than other Israeli towns along the Gaza border. So the Tel Aviv museum let southern Israelis visit the museum for free — and reduced admission for everyone else to account for the 200 or so missing spots on the museum walls. The Israel Museum and Eretz Israel Museum also offered free and discounted entry.

The works moved into the safes in Tel Aviv and Ashdod were mostly pieces on loan from private collectors.

“If they survived 800 years before they got here, we have to do the utmost, for the good of humanity, so they will survive at least another 500 years,” said Lurie.

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Original Article here: http://news.yahoo.com/israel-museums-hide-art-protect-rockets-213242859.html