A selection of recognised Flemish masterpieces in our heritage libraries

The Lamb of God (Ghent Altarpiece) by Van Eyck, Bruegel’s Dull Gret (Mad Meg), and Rubens’s Descent from the Cross: these are undisputed masterpieces of painting. Although not as well-known, some of the world’s best masters of miniature painting and typography were also active in Flanders.

For the purposes of this tour, we use the word ‘masterpiece’ in an ‘official’ sense. Our masterpieces were assigned their status by the Flemish Community on the grounds of the Masterpieces Decree (Topstukkendecreet) of 2003 and are included in a List of Masterpieces. This means that they may not leave Flanders if the Flemish Government refuses to grant permission for this (in which case the government should, in principle, purchase the work itself), and also that they can count on receiving subsidies for conservation and restoration.

How does a work become a masterpiece? A work can become a masterpiece if it has a special significance for the cultural heritage of the Flemish Community, if it is located in Flanders and if it is also rare and indispensable. Being ‘indispensable’ means having unique artistic value, being necessary for our knowledge of other important cultural heritage items (known as ‘benchmarking value’), serving as an important link in the evolution of (art) history or science, or being of substantial value to the collective memory.

The heritage libraries of Flandrica.be are currently home to dozens of recognised masterpieces. Here, we will take you on a tour of about twenty.

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