‘Mad Meg’ is back to Antwerp Museum

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Mad Meg is back home at the Mayer van den Bergh Museum in Antwerp after a two-year absence. The painting will be back on show as one of Mayer van den Bergh’s star attractions from 22 January onward. Having undergone thorough restoration at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels, the painting first travelled to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna for the major Bruegel exhibition there.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Mad Meg has come home. Visitors can renew their acquaintance with the work from 22 January at the home of its discoverer, Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, where it will be on prominent display once more as one of the museum’s star attractions. Previously known as a dark and weird landscape, with a deep-red sky and touches of brown, the painting looks considerably fresher since its restoration. The yellowed layers of varnish and later overpainting have been removed and the splendid original colours are back. The palette of colours has become brighter and more varied, and the panel reveals details that were long invisible, such as the teddy bear, the finely executed helmets and the magnificent landscape in the background. Bruegel’s brushwork and exceptional painter’s talent are visible once more. The sense of space has been restored and the scene as a whole displays a much clearer effect of depth.

In addition to the general Bruegel celebrations in 2019, the Mayer van den Bergh Museum has another reason to mark the return of Dulle Griet: on 5 October, it will be 125 years to the day since Fritz Mayer van den Bergh bought the painting at an auction in Cologne. The strange work was hung high up on a wall and attracted little interest from prospective buyers. Fritz Mayer van den Bergh proved more alert than the various prestigious museums and was able to acquire the painting – a masterpiece previously believed lost – for just 448 old Belgian francs. Mayer van den Bergh had a nose for brilliant discoveries like this and he was fascinated by art that had fallen out of fashion and been forgotten.

Florent Van Ertborn, who acquired around a hundred of the masterpieces now in the Museum of Fine Art in Antwerp, was similarly ahead of his time and also had an eye for the beauty and quality of medieval and Renaissance art.

Starting on 5 October 2019, the Mayer van den Bergh Museum is devoting an exhibition to the shared passion of these leading Antwerp collectors. In addition to Mad Meg and masterpieces by Jean Fouquet, Rogier van der Weyden and Gerard David, visitors will discover the stories behind the acquisitions. Whether these were bargains, investments or brilliant discoveries, Fritz and Florent had a connoisseur’s eye that is clearly visible in the chosen works from their collections. In collaboration with the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

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