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The Treasures of the Fine Arts Museum of Liège (BAL)

The Treasures of the Fine Arts Museum of Liège (BAL)

Since its creation in 2007, the CCPCM (Commission consultative du Patrimoine culturel mobilier / advisory committee for transferable cultural heritage), has listed one hundred and thirty two works as national treasures of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, based on an initial inventory of two thousand three hundred and sixty three works identified in 2004. This catalogue was used as a working basis for selection of the most remarkable works by a group of seventeen experts from different fields of heritage. To be listed, the work must meet several criteria, including its state of conservation, rarity, link to art history, aesthetics, its high quality of elaboration and accomplishment, as well as being the expression of the historical or cultural identity of a community. The works must be at least fifty years old, therefore produced before 1965, which restricts contributions from the domain of contemporary art.

Once a work is listed after a scientific report made to the CCPCM, it can no longer be transformed or restored, nor moved and especially not exported abroad. These measures, which can prove to be restrictive when it comes to the life of a museum, are aimed in the uppermost at protecting remarkable works from any inopportune, insensitive or inappropriate manipulations or interventions, which is unfortunately often the case for church treasures.

The collections of the Fine Arts Museum already boast approximately twenty listings, including several series, spread through various disciplines such as painting, sculpture and drawing. These listings also concern the collections of the former Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Chambers of Engravings and Drawings and the Museum of Walloon Art.

The first listing made in March 2010 concerned a very accomplished drawing by Vincent Van Gogh, Woman with a Bonnet, dating back to 1883, which was incorporated into the collections thanks to the Albert de Neuville donation. The same year, the CCPCM listed two major series of drawings, i.e. a total of more than one thousand four hundred works on paper from the 16th and 19th century respectively. This mainly involved the works of Gilles François Closson, a landscape painter from Liège whose style was in the vein of the neo-classical painters, whilst remaining attached to the Romantic Movement. This collection of six hundred and two works includes oils on card and studies on tracing paper carried out during a stay in Rome. The second collection, that of Lambert Lombard, is made up of two distinct albums, the Arenberg album and the Clérembault album, in other words more than eight hundred drawings from the same workshop, a rarity for the Renaissance.

2010 witnessed the listing of a third series: the nine paintings acquired by the City of Liège during the sale of so-called “degenerate art” organised in Lucerne, on 30th June 1939. Although they each are remarkable works by just as remarkable artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, James Ensor, Marie Laurencin, Max Liebermann, Jules Pascin and Oscar Kokoschka, the listing as a series is justified in this case by the contextual link between these works.

Subsequently, the CCPCM has lent towards major works in the collections: The Port of Le Havre by Claude Monet, Napoléon Bonaparte by Ingres, Sunday Stroll in the Bois de Boulogne by Henri Evenepoel, The Forest by René Magritte, The Man in the Street by Paul Delvaux, without forgetting the best painters from Liège in the 17th century: The Vision of the Blessed Herman Joseph by Jean-Guillaume Carlier, Orpheus in the Underworld by Gérard de Lairesse and Portraits d’homme et de femme (portraits of a man and woman) by Gérard Douffet; nor those of the 19th century, with Woman with Red Corset by Adrien de Witte. The last work listed fell within the field of sculpture, namely the marble bust of Grétry by the Liège artist Henri-Joseph Rutxhiel.

In October 2015, the first batch of one hundred and thirty two national treasures was the subject of a publication: Protection du Patrimoine culturel – Trésors classés en Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (protection of cultural heritage – Listed national treasures of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation). Other listings are planned for 2016, including an exceptional collection of original comic storyboards.


Régine Rémon
Head Curator at the Bal


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