A new masterpiece
This masterpiece is handed to M by the Flemish Minister of Culture Jan Jambon for long-term storage. It is a very interesting and high-quality piece that provides an international context and reference for the museum's rich collection of late-medieval sculptures from the Netherlands. It is a special enrichment of the collection.
The maker is probably the Veronese sculptor Brioloto de Balneo, known to experts for the large rosette window in the San Zeno Basilica in Verona.
Flemish Minister of Culture Jambon is delighted with the purchase. "It is an enrichment for the collective art collection in Flanders," says Minister Jambon. "Thanks to the expertise of M and experts from different museums, we were able to appreciate this work. There are only six similar statues known worldwide, of which three are to be found in Italy. This work is the best preserved of the series, with remnants of original polychromy."
The sculpture meets all the criteria of the Masterpiece Decree. No comparable sculpture from that period and tradition and of such size and artistic quality has been kept in Flanders. As an important testimony to the unique, eclectic Stoclet collection of which it was a part, the piece is also important to collective memory.
The work has been housed in private collections for many years and can now finally be shown to the public. In the 19th century, the statue was held by a collector in Verona, where it was made, then the work became part of the famous Stroganoff collection in Rome. In 1923, Adolphe Stoclet acquired the statue from the Stroganoff family. Adolphe Stoclet built up an eclectic art collection.
International knowledge centre
"We are delighted to welcome the masterpiece to M and are very grateful to the Flemish Community for this long-term loan. Since the launch of M 12 years ago, the museum has increasingly profiled itself as a knowledge centre of medieval sculpture, also internationally," says Denise Vandevoort, chair of the Board of M and Leuven's alderman for culture. She continues: "M exchanges expertise around medieval art through international collaborations such as with the Musée du Louvre (Paris) for the 'Alabaster' exhibition in October 2022. There are also upcoming collaborations with the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK), the Courtauld Institute of Art (London, UK) and other partners as part of the knowledge and expertise centre on medieval sculpture ARDS, which M launched in 2014 and which has gradually become the international reference among medieval art specialists."
The Maria Lactans is a special work and was previously on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art, for example. Head of collections at M, Marjan Debaene explains: "In Belgian collections it is, to my knowledge, the only known example of religious Italian Romanesque sculpture of such quality and size, moreover with an iconography that was still very rare for the time, namely Mary breast-feeding the infant Jesus, which is depicted in a very intimate way. The piece is still in very good condition and shows great monumentality. We welcome the unique work with great pleasure and look forward to further research. This acquisition also fits in with the policy of further contextualising M's collection of medieval Brabant sculpture with top quality from other European sculpture centres. ”
About the Masterpiece Decree
The Masterpiece Decree provides for the protection of movable cultural heritage that must be preserved for the Flemish Community in Flanders. These are objects of special archaeological, historical, cultural-historical, artistic or scientific significance. The best-known recognised masterpiece from the M collection is 'The Last Supper' by Flemish Master Dieric Bouts, which is on display in the St. Peter's Church in Leuven.
The Masterpiece List of rare and indispensable objects and collections is drawn up on the basis of the decree. This list currently contains 786 individual objects and 104 collections. These protected objects and collections are subject to special protection measures and export restrictions.
The Masterpiece Fund was also established on the basis of this decree. The resources of this fund will be used for the restoration of items on the Masterpieces List and for the acquisition of masterpieces. The Masterpiece Fund purchases both pieces that have already been included in the list of Masterpieces and heritage items that have not been included in this list but which do meet the 'rare and essential' criteria of the Masterpieces Decree. Cultural goods that are not on the Masterpiece List will be added to the list once they have been acquired.