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Works per artist

Jacques Charlier

Liege, 1939

Courage to the last (Courage au dernier)
Oil on canvas, 195 x 300 cm
Inv. BA.AMC.05b.2006.22035

Lent by the Arcelor group, in 2006

A self-taught artist, born in Liege in 1939, Jacques Charlier exhibited for the first time in 1962. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, he undertook many projects linked to the avant-gardes of the era and established contacts with artists in Flanders and Brussels. He also became friends with Marcel Broodthaers.

Charlier is constantly observing society and especially the art world, whose excesses he criticises with sacrilegious irreverence, but also with a knowing wink and a touch of humour. Always on the lookout, he reacts instantly to political, cultural or scientific current affairs. A man of many talents, he uses various media, including painting, sculpture, music, drawings, etc., to find the best technique or most appropriate means for dealing with his subject. The artist’s own personal history is never far away.

Near the age of fifteen years, Jacques Charlier worked for several summers for Cockerill at their steelworks in Seraing, where his father son was a workman. Hired as a trainee in the thermal and electronics department, the youthful Charlier learned the finest details of how steel is made, from smelting to rolling.

Fifty years later, 2003 again sounded the death knell of the steel industry in Liege. With the hot phases and blast furnaces in Seraing and Ougrée under threat, the decisions of Arcelor and the reactions of the trade unions were front page news. In June of that year, blast furnace 6 was shut down.

It was at this moment that Charlier started this committed work, the cry of hope that is Courage to the last! A strong and emblematic image with a unifying slogan, he deliberately designed it in the same way as a trade union poster, leaving the workers free to claim ownership of it in their social fight against Goliath. The silhouette of the blast furnace, on an apocalyptic background, has today become the symbol of the descent into hell of this industry, affecting production sites beyond the Liege region.

The absurd nature of the situation stemmed from Goliath himself, because it was the Arcelor group that bought the artist’s painting. One month before its merger with the Indian group of Lakshmi Mittal, in May 2006, Arcelor made a long term loan of the canvas to the Museum of modern and contemporary art, which is today part of the new Boverie Museum in Liege. It is the first in a series of artistic works addressing this same theme within the museum’s collections.

In Charlier’s works, the popular aspect, in the best sense of the term, is deliberately maintained by the artist. He also feels himself to be intensely anti-academic and seeks to preserve a link with the public. His works remain absolutely unclassifiable in light of the wealth of styles and themes he has covered throughout his career. Although he works in series, Charlier especially avoids repetition. Once he has exhausted a subject matter, he does not return to it. Although some might see this as a lack of coherence, he considers it as an act of self-defence against attrition. Charlier is thus deeply rooted in his era, changing both manner and subject at the frantic pace of passing fashions.


Carmen Genten
Curator at the Bal


Jacques Charlier - Courage to the last - (2003)


Gilles François Joseph Closson

Liege, 1796 - 1842

1825 – 1829
Collection of 602 works on paper
Pencil, quill, washing and oil on drawing paper, card and tracing paper

Listed as a national treasure of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation since 26th March 2010

Born in Liege, Closson left his home town in 1817 for a voyage to Paris and a stay at the workshop of painter Antoine Jean Gros which was to last for seven years. Scarcely having returned to Liege, he departed again for Rome, where he stayed from 1825 to 1829 on a scholarship with the Darchis foundation. Captivated by nature, as well as the cities of Rome and Naples, he definitively renounced historical painting and exclusively devoted himself henceforth to landscapes. The Eternal City and its monuments were a major source of inspiration, as was the surrounding countryside and mountainous regions. The Coliseum, Villa Borghese, Castel Sant’Angelo, Basilica of Maxentius and Castellamare were all sketches that he made “after nature” on strong paper or cardboard, with pencil or oil. He also sketched scenes from everyday life and copied costumes or elements of architecture from the Antiquity.

These were not swiftly produced sketches but very meticulous and precise drawings, like documentary studies of foliage or the sky. Some of the painted sketches are incomplete, allowing insight into the artist’s creative process before painting the canvas on an easel. However, the painter was also a very sensitive illustrator and displays excellent technical mastery. His unquestionable talent can be found in the pictorial and innovative qualities of his work: transparency, brightness and dark, the play between shadow and light, as well as an original manner of laying out the works.

Closson belongs to the neo-classical movement of landscape artists, immersed in Romanticism, of which there were many in Italy and more precisely in Rome and Naples, who painted in the open air. Among such artists was Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot who lived in Rome at the same time as Closson.

The collection of the Closson workshop boasts no less than six hundred and two works on paper, including one hundred and twenty seven oils on card, one hundred and forty six drawings on tracing paper and three hundred and twenty nine pencil drawings. At the artist’s death in 1842, his widow bequeathed it to the City of Liege, specifically to the Academy of Fine Arts where Closson used to teach, before it was moved to the Museum of Fine Arts. This collection contains the majority of the artist’s work, whose artwork on easel can be found in a range of major international museums, such as the National Gallery in London or the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

All the works have been restored and conditioned thanks to the Constant Fund of the King Baudouin Foundation. A university dissertation has established the comprehensive annotated catalogue of the artist’s painted and drawn work as well as identifying the majority of the sites depicted.


Régine Rémon
Head Curator of the Bal


Gilles François Joseph Closson - Croquis 1
Gilles François Joseph Closson - (1825–1829)


Gilles François Joseph Closson - Croquis 2
Gilles François Joseph Closson - (18251829)


Paul Delvaux

Antheit, 1897 - Furnes, 1994

The Man in the Street
Oil on canvas, 130 x 150 cm

Deposited by the Belgian Government in 1940

Listed as a national treasure of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation since 11th October 2013


The Man in the Street is an emblematic work of Paul Delvaux’s art. The painting on canvas is signed and dated January 1940. It belongs to the artist’s surrealist period, considered to be his period of maturity which, from 1935, saw the emergence of several leading painting such as Pink Bows, The Mermaids, The Sleeping City, City Worried, Pygmalion, The Awakening of the Forest, The Public Square.

After an impressionist phase followed by an expressionist period, Delvaux dreamed up an especially personal world that is clearly recognisable. He shook the established order, playing with time and space. The subjects and environments stand alongside one another to create a strange ambiance which has nothing to do with reality but which became his reality. In Delvaux’s own words, “When I dared to paint a Roman arch of triumph and, on the ground, illuminated lamps, the decisive step had been taken. For me, it was an extraordinary revelation”.

The Man in the Street is representative of Delvaux’s repertoire; in an almost lunar landscape dotted with leafless trees and stones, the central feminine character in the foreground, wearing an ivy headdress, like Botticelli’s Venus, pays homage to the Italian Renaissance, whilst the ruined temple is evocative of the Antiquity. The man in the street, an enigmatic character, in a suit and bowler hat, absorbed with reading his newspaper, is insensitive to the seduction of the flesh, embodied by three naked silhouettes. With a discrepancy in eras and references to the cultures that Delvaux admired, namely the Antiquity and the Renaissance, the canvas also expresses a recurrent sentiment in his work, that of incommunicability between beings, who ignore each other and do not notice each other.

The Man in the Street displays smooth and polished craftsmanship, a precise and meticulous drawing style as well as an astonishing freshness of colour. The composition is balanced, elaborated around a central axis with superimposition of planes that increase the depth of the scene. As a whole, it remains pared-down, unlike certain works of the same era in which Delvaux provides an overabundance of details that are detrimental to the work’s overall readability.

The work dated January 1940 evades the particularly dramatic context of the era. The following year City Worried was to be more in keeping with the tragic events. The painting was acquired in 1940, the year it was painted, by the Belgian government which deposited it with the Liege Museum of Fine arts. It is the first major surrealist work to be included in the City of Liege’s collections.


R. R.

Jean-Pierre De Rycke, Paul Delvaux ou la persistance de la mémoire classique, in the catalogue of the exhibition Paul Delvaux, peintre des gares, Éd. Luc Pire, Liege, 2009.
Régine Rémon, catalogue if the exhibition Paul Delvaux, peintre des gares, Éd. Luc Pire, Liege, 2009.
Catalogue of the exhibition Paul Delvaux, 1897-1994, Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, 1997.
Michel Butor, Jean Clair, Suzanne Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux, catalogue de l’œuvre peint, Éd. Cosmos, Brussels, 1975.


Paul Delvaux - L'homme de la rue - (1940)


Adrien de Witte

Liege, 1850 – Liege, 1935

Woman with Red Corset
Oil on canvas, 85 x 69 cm
Inv. BA.WAL.05b.1921.731

Acquired by the City of Liege at the exhibition of the Royal Society of Fine Arts in 1921

Listed as a national treasure of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation on 14th March 2014


This work is the masterpiece of Adrien de Witte, a painter, engraver and illustrator from Liege. The former curator of the Louvre Museum, René Huyghe, when speaking of the Woman with Red Corset, did not hesitate to claim it was worth of a painting by Edgard Degas.

Painted in Rome in 1880, during the artist’s second visit to Italy, who was on a Darchis Foundation scholarship, the painting shows one of his favourite models: Luisa Giardini. Adrien de Witte sketched her on the spot and not during a traditional posing session. The moment is stolen from the young lady, tidying her hair in a most sensual instant of intimacy: lifting her arms to straighten her hair, she inadvertently reveals the curves of her breasts spilling out of the barely tied blouse. The instantaneous quality to which are added the effects of shadow and light, confer an impressionist character to the painting. However, far beyond any belonging to a stylistic movement, the very simplicity of the composition and the economy of the palette are sufficient to bestow it with the status of a first class work.

In Italy, ordinary women wore their corsets over their blouses, in view of all. The colour of the lingerie item indicated the social status of the woman wearing it. Red was reserved for married women. Since the 18th century, depictions featuring Italian women dressed in this way were plentiful, regardless of artistic movement. Historical paintings, genre paintings and portraits of archetypal people in traditional dress featured an increasing number of such representations.

Adrien de Witte’s stroke of genius was to have solely preserved the detail of the famous garment, enhancing it and making it the main subject of the composition. The artist portrays a young peasant woman in a red corset, of course, but in the same vein as women indulging in their ablutions and other intimate scenes that were the fashion of his time. The entire work is painted with delicacy and sensuality, without the slightest trace of vulgarity.


Gaëtane Warzée

Adrien de Witte - Femme au corset rouge
Adrien de Witte - Femme au corset rouge - (1880)


Henri Jacques Édouard Evenepoel

Nice (FR), 1872 – Paris (FR), 1899

Sunday Stroll in the Bois de Boulogne
Oil on canvas, 191 x 301 cm
Inv. BA.AMC.05b.1908.21335

Purchased by the City of Liege in 1908, listed as a national treasure of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, on 15th September 2011


Henri Evenepoel was a Belgian artist, born in Nice in 1872. He lived in Brussels, Paris and Algeria. In 1899, the year in which Sunday Stroll in the Bois de Boulogne was painted Evenepoel was back in Paris and received an invitation from Octave Maus to take part in the fair of the Libre Esthétique Society in 1900. His work, which met with resounding success, encouraged him to undertake two large format paintings: The Spaniard in Paris and Sunday Stroll in the Bois de Boulogne (which was for a long time given a false moniker: Sunday Stroll in Saint-Cloud). The painter then planned on returning to Belgium to marry his cousin Louise. However, several days before his departure, on 27th December 1899, he died due to a violent bout of typhoid fever.

Painted at the end of the 19th century, the painting embodies modernity in many ways. Adopting the post-impressionist technique, it boasts an avant-gardist force conveyed in particular by the transposition of movement through the painting style. The blurred contours, thick brush strokes, framing and the construction of the landscape especially contribute to this effect. The modernity that characterises the work of Evenepoel lies in the desire to stand out from the new competition of the era, namely photography. The painters’ objective was no longer to provide an imaginary rendering but to concentrate on the skill to depict, in particular movement, light or ambiances.

Evenepoel chose an extremely modern subject, a stroll in a public park – which was a novelty at the end of the 19th century – because his aspiration lay first and foremost in the attitudes and gestures of the crowd, renewing with genre scenes. Under the Second Empire, a series of works designed to renovate the parks and gardens of Paris took place. Napoleon III, who decreed a policy of introducing green spaces into the French capital, sold the Bois de Boulogne woods to the City of Paris in 1852. It was inaugurated at the same time as the Bois de Vincennes woods, the Buttes Chaumont and Parc Monceau. These parks became places for meeting and leisure for the Parisian bourgeoisie at the end of the century. The Bois de Boulogne woods spread over 800 hectares, opposite the Eiffel Tower built in 1889 on the other side of the Seine River, a symbol of French engineering’s technical progress at the end of the 19th century; it can be seen in the upper right hand corner of the painting.

The layout of Sunday Stroll… is well thought out: veering between filled and empty spaces, it is elaborated in large horizontal strips, parallel planes that slide one behind the other. Following the rule of thirds, notably used in photography, the ground-line occupies the bottom third of the painting, which gives the background a fallen back perspective. Three touches of lively colour intersperse Sunday Stroll…, but this time vertically. Standing out from the strollers dressed in brown, blue or black, the dresses in green (to the left), pink (to the right) and white (worn by the child in the centre) perfectly balance the colour palette of the work.

Another original aspect of the composition, the lady in her Sunday best on the arm of a soldier becomes the main subject. Entirely off-centre, the couple are leaving the scene towards the right.

Before starting this painting, Evenepoel wrote to his father (in 1899): “I have asked a cuirassier to pose for my large painting”. Indeed, there are almost ten known works in more modest format on card, wood, painted or engraved that served as preparatory sketches for the large version of Sunday Stroll… (Sketches I, II, II of Sunday in the Bois de Boulogne, studies I, II, III of the Cuirassier, in the Bois de Boulogne, etching of the Dragoon). Several modifications were made as the artist’s work matured. Figures disappeared in the first studies, whilst others were transformed. For example, a male balloon seller became a woman selling balloons. The two soldiers in the foreground were transformed into a couple, which explains, moreover, the amount of studies Evenepoel made of the cuirassier. All these figures studied and sketched on the spot were, in the end, incorporated into this grand composition, which pays witness to the artist’s accomplished pictorial technique. The result of a long thought process and practical development, the Sunday Stroll… brought the brief career of the young Evenepoel to a close.

Sunday Stroll in the Bois de Boulogne was acquired by the City of Liege in 1908, from the artist’s father after the death of his son. This painting was completed several months before the premature death of Henri Evenepoel.


Fanny Moens

Reasearch Assistant at the Bal


Henri Jacques Edouard Evenepoel - La promenade du dimanche au Bois de Boulogne
Henri Jacques Édouard Evenepoel - La promenade du dimanche au Bois de Boulogne - (1899)


Claude Monet

Paris (FR), 1840 – Giverny (FR), 1926

Le Bassin du commerce (the Trade Harbour). Le Havre
Circa 1874
Oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm
Inv. BA.AMC.05b.1900.21591

Donation by Eugène Dumont to the City of Liege in 1900

Listed as a national treasure by the Federation of Wallonia-Brussels on 8th October 2012


The painting depicts the trade harbour in the city of Le Havre in France. Formerly known under the name of Ingouville harbour, the works were completed in 1791 in the wake of the urban and popular extension plan ordered by Louis XVI. It soon took on the name it bears today, drawing it from the activity of the merchant ships that moored there and the exchange of the same name located on one of its banks. Today, its surroundings no longer resemble in the slightest the scene immortalised by Claude Monet, following the substantial bombardments suffered by Le Havre during the Second World War. The work was incorporated into the collections of Liege in 1900 as part of thirty-eight paintings donated by the native of Liege Eugène Dumont who lived in Paris.

According to Daniel Wildenstein, author of the comprehensive annotated catalogue of Monet’s works, this canvas was most probably produced in January 1874 when the painter returned to Le Havre, shortly after the very first exhibition by the artists who would be known henceforth as the Impressionists. Monet shows one of the smaller sides of the harbour; its western side to be precise. To the left of the spectator, three large sailing ships with elaborate mast structures adorn this part of the composition with horizontal and vertical lines. The rest of the painting shows the buildings bordering the quay, the port facilities and several small boats. As a whole, it is treated with a concern for reality that is much more scrupulous than the technique used would suggest. A couple of perfect illustrations of this are, among other very real details in the view of the harbour, the representation of the machine used to install masts on the boats, which stands out through its compass-like shape, as well as the silhouette topped with a dome or the Grand Theatre, which today no longer exists. As for human presence, it is evoked discretely: imprecise shapes swarm around the ships, or vague silhouettes can be seen on furtive small boats. The colour palette is cold, mainly made up of shades of blue, purple and green (due to the significant place taken up by the sky and water’s surface). The orange touches of the sun shining on the right hand side of the composition adroitly add some warmth.

The Boverie Museum’s seascape now serves as a foil to the eponymous painting of the impressionist movement, Impression, Sunrise held by the Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris. In fact, the two works share common ground, in addition to their almost similar subject matter. They reproduce a view of the port of Le Havre and were painted during what specialists refer to as the Argenteuil period (1872-1877). The depiction of the water’s surface is very similar. Nevertheless, whilst the two compositions both convey the luminous effect of occasional sunlight, the points in time are different. Impression, Sunrise is sketched, as its name indicates, at sunrise. Le Bassin du Commerce was carried out at the end of the afternoon with the sun going down, as attested by the sun’s rays touching the gables of the façades in the background of the composition, in particular that of the Grand Theatre. Furthermore, the work possesses character and presence that are distinctly more accomplished than its Parisian Counterpart.


Gaëtane Warzée


Claude Monet - Le Bassin du commerce. Le Havre - (vers 1874)


Kees Van Dongen (Cornelis Theodorus Marie Van Dongen, dit Kees)

Delfshaven, Rotterdam (NL), 1877 - Monte-Carlo, Monaco (FR), 1968

La violoniste (The Violinist)
Circa 1920
Oil on canvas, 81 x 60 cm.
Inv. BA.AMC.05b.1939.21295

Acquired by the City of Liège in 1939


In Paris, at the Grand-Palais exhibition and museum complex, in 1905, Kees Van Dongen presented two canvases in the Autumn Fair: Le torse (the torso) and La chemise (the shirt), one naked woman and the other clothed. The artist’s notorious reputation was complete! Of course, from a technical point of view, the mould of the pictorial conventions was broken, but the crux of the scandal resided especially in the erotic part of his art. He painted many women, who were often lascivious and always suffused with a note of daydreaming, voluptuousness or sensuality.

Kees Van Dongen commenced his artistic studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. After a sojourn in Paris in 1897, he decided to move there in 1899. He frequented the anarchist movement and the Bateau-Lavoir. After having experimented with Neo-Impressionism then Tachism, Van Dongen adopted Fauvism which he conveyed in his paintings by a stronger colour palette.

Produced in all probability during the 1920’s, the Violinist comes at the beginning of his high society period. Indeed, between 1920 and 1930, the works of Van Dongen depicted the Paris jet set of the Roaring Twenties. The women that he sketched are not as expressive as the prostitutes which he painted in his beginnings. The models have less force and solemnity. Their bodies are elongated and highlighted by colour and light. Van Dongen was now only interested in the sole theme of high society and not that of social reality.

Such is the case of the violinist, with her slender profile, outlined in the manner of a stylist’s sketch, from head to toe. She is playing her instrument in the foreground, in front of an imposing blue piano. In this uncluttered composition with an ethereal atmosphere, the differences of the volumes play a decisive role: the various pieces of subject matter compete with and complete one another. The echo of the soloist’s feminine curves can be found in those of the violin, piano and vase. Moreover, might the vase be a pretext for an allusion to the shape of the soloist’s small breasts, emphasized by an audacious low neckline? Delicate hints of colour adorn her dainty face: pink on her cheeks, vermillion on her lips and black eyeliner to underline her closed eyes. Her excessively long unending legs are unveiled under a long transparent dress before disappearing into black high-heeled shoes.

The predominantly cold shades (white, blue and green) contrast with the concentrated warmth emanating from the astonishing brown colour of the violin. A similar palette can be found in other works from the same era such as La dame au chien (Parisian Lady) or La piazzetta (the Small Square) produced during a journey by the artist to Venice in the 1920’s in the company of Marchioness Luisa Casati, the muse of the Paris jet set. The violinist displays unsettling likenesses with one of the protagonists of the Passe-Temps honnête (an Honest Pastime), held by the Fine Arts Museum in Nantes. The similar silhouettes share the same type of clothes and hair-cut.


Christelle Schoonbroodt
Research assistant at the City of Liege Museums


Kees Van Dongen - La violoniste - (vers 1920)


Vincent Van Gogh

Groot-Zundert (NL), 1853 - Auvers-sur-Oise (FR), 1890

Woman with a bonnet
Lead pencil, black lithographic pencil and watercolour on paper
448 x 245 mm
Inv. BA.CED.23a.1996.27726

Donation by Albert de Neuville to the City of Liege in 1996

Listed as a national treasure of the FWB since 26th March 2010


This little known drawing by Vincent Van Gogh was added to the collections of the Cabinet des Estampes et des Dessins in 1996, as part of the donation by the estate of Albert de Neuville (Liege, 1864-1924), which includes fifty drawings and engravings. This benefactor and Industrialist from Liege, also an enthusiastic art lover, acquired it most likely in 1904, in Amsterdam, in the C.M. Van Gogh gallery run by the artist’s uncles. The drawing is neither signed nor dated, but bears a label on the rear mentioning the number of the collection.

The authenticity of the work was confirmed in 1968 by A.Tellegen, curator at the Dutch Institute of Art History in The Hague. In 2000, during the exhibition devoted to the painter by the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny (Switzerland) where the drawing was exhibited to the general public for the first time, Professor Ronald Pickvance clarified the dating and identified the model. It is not Clasina Maria Hoornik, also known as Sien, a pregnant young prostitute who was his model and partner during 1882, but her mother, aged 56 years at the time. Other drawings kept in Amsterdam or in Groningen depict her wearing the same bonnet.

Also called Head of an Old Dutch woman, this drawing belongs to a series of several dozen sketches produced between December 1882 and February 1883, a period during which Van Gogh, whilst staying in The Hague, developed a fascination for and collected engravings on wood emanating from illustrated reviews such as The Graphic. Awestruck by the series Heads of the people, he started to observe and sketch the people in his entourage, family, old people at the neighbouring hospice, but also peasants, fishermen and workers. The titles are very evocative: On the Threshold of Eternity, Old Man with a Stick, Man Digging and reflect the social preoccupations of Van Gogh, who nourished the desire to create art for the people whose courage and uprightness he admired.

The drawings in this series were conducted using a specific technique that the painter developed: a sketch carried out fretfully with a lead pencil, lithographic pencil and thick white chalk on large-grained paper which retains the materials used, before “scraping” it in order to unshackle the lighter parts and accentuate the contrasts.

This portrait belongs to the period of learning prior to The Potato Eaters. That emblematic painting of 1885, came in for virulent criticism, at the time, due to the deformation of the subjects, the exacerbation of colours, the thickness of the paste and the tormented character of the work. This drawing, however, is delicate in the extreme. The weariness and tiredness of the model show through in this very accomplished and extremely sensitive portrait.


Régine Rémon
Head Curator at the Bal


Vincent Van Gogh - La Femme au bonnet
Vincent Van Gogh - La Femme au bonnet - (1883)

Antoine-Joseph Wiertz

Dinant, 1806 – Brussels, 1865

Rosine à sa toilette (Rosine washing)
Circa 1840
Oil on canvas, 156 x 98 cm
Inv. BA.WAL.05b.1978.3330

Jaumain – Jobart donation in 1974, entry into the museum in 1978


A child prodigy, Antoine-Joseph Wiertz studied in Paris and Antwerp as well as journeying several times to Rome where he received a scholarship. In his Eloges (accolades) dating from 1840-41, the ambitious artists compared himself to Raphaël, Michel-Ange and Rubens. After having endured criticism in Paris with The Greeks and the Trojans fighting over the body of Patrocles, he returned to Belgium. Between 1834 and 1844, Wiertz lived with his mother in Liege. Following her death, he left the city to return to Brussels. It is probable that Rosine à sa toilette (Rosine Washing) was painted in the 1840’s. Indeed, this period saw him produce several graceful works of intimate or erotic character, depicting female nudes as a pretext to study of the human body.

In the same attitude as the Venus Anadyomene painted by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres in 1808 (who also inspired other artists of the 19th century), the nude model poses, with one arm above her head, accentuating her bust. The pale mass of her dazzling flesh stands out from the dark background. The influence of Rubens is perceptible in the attachment of Wiertz in portraying the body in a manner that is sensual and suave, but also dynamic and powerful. The theme is that of vanities (vanitas), a successful genre in 17th century painting, which suggests the ephemeral character of human life. Rosine, a young woman of idealised beauty, gazes unremittingly at herself in a mirror... representing the futility of human preoccupations.

In the work of Wiertz, the femme fatale, an amoral figure dangerous for men, is frequently confronted with death. Already in 1842, Wiertz depicted Une jeune fille à sa toilette (a young lady washing), held by the Brussels Royal Museums of Fine Arts, from behind, looking at herself in a mirror. Under the thick layer of glazing, in place of the reflection of the young lady, the head of a devil can be seen. In 1847, the artist painted Beautiful Rosine (also held by the Brussels Royal Museums of Fine Arts) which displays striking similarities with the Rosine of Liege. The symbolism is nevertheless again very clear: the mirror in which the beauty of the young woman is reflected is replaced by a skeleton, facing her and overlooking her. Consequently, Beautiful Rosine was referred to for a long time as The Two Young Women, which reinforces the idea of dialogue between death and the young woman.

Through careful observation of the two Rosines, certain elements of the composition and décor are similar: the bottle of perfume and pearl necklace left flippantly on the edge of the dressing table. The titles seem to identify a same and single woman. However, it is clearly apparent that the two young women have been painted using different models.

As regards the theme of vanities, in all likelihood these young women embody allegories of beauty, seduction and youth; this is why Wiertz draws his inspiration from figures such as the Roman goddess Venus, or Rosine, a character in the Barber of Seville by Gioachino Antonio Rossini.

According to this idea, Christian Pacco, a historian of Belgian art, points to two characters that are Rossini’s heroine, a woman coveted by all, and the famous opera singer Maria-Félicia Garcia, also known as La Malibran. Indeed, the premature death of this young and beautiful woman, at the peak of her glory, deeply affected artistic circles in Brussels in the 19th century. La Malibran died at the age of twenty eight years, as it happens after playing the role of Rosine in Rosini’s play. Her death dates back to 1836, a date prior to the time at which the two Rosines were presumed to have been painted. It is possible to imagine that, at the time, Wiertz, whose reputation needed no further proof, was part of the Brussels artistic circles and perhaps that of La Malibran herself. Indeed, many artists of the 19th century (including François Bouchot or Henri Decaisne) drew their inspiration from this person and depicted La Malibran as an incarnation of ephemeral youth and beauty.


Fanny Moens
Research assistant – Guide at the City of Liege’s museums


Antoine-Joseph Wiertz - Rosine à sa toilette - (vers 1840)


© Photos - Marc Verpoorten

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