Five centuries of silver at M - Museum Leuven

Five centuries of silver at M - Museum Leuven

Opening of the exhibition SILVER. Art | Object | History

Thursday, February 12, 2015 — M - Museum Leuven highlights five centuries of silver for the first time. Religious treasures, luxury tableware, art deco objects and sixties design tell fascinating stories about the rich history of Leuven and Brabant. Thanks to over 250 exhibited objects, you will discover forgotten rituals and table habits from the daily lives of past generations. From 12 february until 12 july 2015 the exhibition showcases household items and artworks commissioned by the city, the university, the guilds, churches, abbeys and convents.

The return of a Renaissance masterpiece: the windmill cup.

A genuine Renaissance masterpiece returns to Leuven: the windmill cup. This unique piece from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the oldest known windmill cup from the Southern Netherlands. It was a central item in drinking games. The cup dates from ca. 1530–1560 and was once owned by the Dutch royal family.

Silver for a new era

The exhibition reveals a number of well-kept secrets. The luxurious silver art deco work crafted by monk Dom Martin (1889–1965) is one of them. 20th-century movements of renewal within the Church had a profound impact on religious art. During the interbellum, the Abbey of Keizersberg played an important role in Leuven thanks to the presence of the monk-silversmith Dom Martin. He designed exclusive art-deco silver with luxury materials. His designs were executed by the famous Brussels metalworkers Wolfers Frères and lacquer artist Marcel Wolfers (1886-1976). He was also well known at the Belgian court. In 1935, Dom Martin designed the interior of the royal chapel at the International Exposition in Brussels. On feast days, the royal family occasionally attended Mass in the abbey church.

Showered with silver

A striking example of Leuven’s influence is the so-called ‘primus’ silver. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the best students at the four colleges in Leuven competed with one another every year. The winner or ‘primus’ of these competitive trials of strength was showered with silver gifts. This primus silver has a place of honour. For the first time, the exhibition is bringing together an extensive collection of primus gifts from Mons, Bruges, Breda, Delft, The Hague, Tournai, Liège, Maastricht and Sint-Niklaas.


‘Leuven’ silver: made in Brabant

For centuries, Brabant was a centre for the production and use of precious metals, with Leuven as a central catalyst. The city’s influence extended far beyond the city walls. The surrounding towns, such as Aarschot, Diest, Tienen and Wavre all bear Leuven’s hallmark. Consequently, the term ‘Leuven silver’ is of wide-ranging significance. This exhibition unravels the geographical confusion and presents the development of metalworking and the Leuven hallmark.


More information

Curators: Leo De Ren, Ko Goubert & Wim Nys

This exhibition is organised in collaboration with M and the Silver Museum of the Province of Antwerp



Detail of the Leuven Hallmark for silver
Dom Martin in collaboration with  Wolfers Frères & Marcel Wolfers, Detail of a Monstrance, Leuven/Brussel, 1931, Sint-Theodardus Beringen-Mijn © KIK-IRPA, Brussel
Dom Martin in collaboration with Wolfers Frères & Marcel Wolfers, Monstrance & pyx D1, Leuven/Brussel, 1931, Sint-Theodardus Beringen-Mijn © KIK-IRPA, Brussel (x074687)
Dom Martin in collaboration with Wolfers Frères & Marcel Wolfers, Set of silver church plate gifted by queen Elisabeth (of Belgium), Leuven/Brussels, 1930–1931, Keizersberg Abbey © Dominique Provost, Bruges
Dom Martin, Cope clasp, Leuven, ca. 1924, Abdij Keizersberg © Dominique Provost, Bruges
Gravure voor Van Even 1860, L.J. Van Peteghem, ca 1860, M - Museum Leuven
M.A. Angermille, Ceremonial key of the city of Leuven, Leuven, 1794, M - Museum Leuven © Lukas - Art in Flanders vzw (photo Dominique Provost, Bruges)
Windmill cup, Leuven, ca. 1530–1560 (17th century glass), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam