Festival of the Archers

Master of Frankfurt
141 cm x 176 cm x 12 cm
Inventory number: 
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
Category A: Flemish primitives
15th century Portraits
Figurative art

At the beginning of the 14th Century, archer’s guilds began to pop up in the Flemish and Brabantian cities. Their primary occupation was with weapons exercises, to which also the Landjuweel belonged, a shooting competition amongst various guilds. Target practices were seen as very necessary. For the most part, they were concluded with a festival, and that is depicted on this painting. The work was painted upon commission by the Antwerp guild of the Old Arabalest. In one of the windows of the square tower directly above, one sees the coat of arms of Antwerp. In the middle sits a man under a canopy, probably the chief man of the guild who has won the competition. The key above his head indicates that the meal is free, and many people are streaming in. Below, there are a few who are trying to sneak through the hedges. The entirety plays of as an enclosed world, that makes one think of the religious “Cloistered Garden”. This emphasises the community of the guild brothers. Only the painter himself is able to be brought into the garden as a bystander. He is in the company of a young woman, and looks as one looking directly out of the painting.