Monday, January 25, 2016

Belgium: Museum Plantin Moretus Antwerp

This is the former home of the great printer Christophe Plantin (1520-1589). He was certainly the greatest printer in the history of Belgium and perhaps of all time. His works were held in esteem by all the great men of his time. Philip II appointed him Royal Printer, and he was granted a monopoly on all religious printing in the Spanish Empire. The Moretus family are his descendants, and the museum now carries both names.

I wish there were an audio guide to this museum, but there isn’t. The rooms are numbered, and you get a small paper guide to help you locate the most important items in each room. You get to visit over 30 items. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to photograph the inside of the house.

Room 1 is hung with Flemish tapestries and a Rubens’ painting The Lion Hunt. The fireplace is lined with wonderful mulberry tiles, and there is a case of Chinese porcelains.

Room 2 has 10 portraits, some by Rubens and some by his school. These are all family members. There is a beautiful art cabinet made of rosewood, ebony, and tortoiseshell near the fireplace

Room 3 has two volumes of the Bible that belonged to King Wenceslaus and a copy of the Froissart Chronicles. A beautifully illustrated Book of Hours, however, was my favorite piece in the room.

I am not going to list the contents of each room, but there was not a boring one among them. You have a fair share of both family rooms and all the rooms of the printing business. You visit the offices, workrooms, and the foundry, but more than that, you see examples of the finest printing techniques from as early as the 15th century.

The geography room was absolutely one of my favorites. There is a globe on a stand, but also some very early maps. I had a very hard time dragging myself away. I was fascinated at how accurate the early drawings were, especially of the East Coast of the United States. In addition, a map of Antwerp from 1565 shows even where the houses were. As a genealogist, I was intrigued. You could literally locate your ancestor’s home if they lived in Antwerp.

  Allow yourself at least 1.5 hours to visit this museum. It takes quite a while to read the little descriptive cards in all the rooms. They do not have much of a gift shop.

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