Fouquet: Exceptional Loan from the KMSKA to the Prado in Madrid

Beginning 12 February 2014, the famous Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim by Jean Fouquet from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) will be exhibited in the Prado in Madrid. The work has never been on display before in Spain, and moreover, it has been since 1904 that the work of art has travelled abroad.

The painting by Jean Fouquet (1420-1471), the Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim, which is the absolute masterpiece of the KMSKA collection, is staying at the Prado for a three-month La obra invitada. Yesterday, the work of art was unveiled in the Madrid museum amidst a fervour of press coverage. Museum Director Dr. Paul Huvenne, "The closure of the Royal Museum due to renovation works offers the opportunity to provide exposure abroad with the unique and iconic masterpieces, with which Flanders is so richly endowed. Recently we were in Mumbai with our Baroque works. Consider it a calling card of sorts."

That the KMSKA accepts the invitation by the Prado is indeed quite exceptional. It has been since 1904 that the painting has travelled, then at the request of the Louvre. The extraordinary good preservation condition and the special conservational and safety measures that have been taken make the loan possible.

The work of art is exceptional for many reasons. It holds a unique place in the art of French painting from the 15th Century, and it is the most important work by Jean Fouquet, of whom only two diptychs and one painting are preserved. The Madonna is probably based upon the portrayal of Agnes Sorel, the lover of the French King, Charles II. The painting hung for a long time above the burial chapel of Catherine Budé in Melun. It makes up a part of a diptych, made upon commission by Etienne Chevalier, Treasurer of the King and husband of Budé. Chevalier is portrayed along with his patron saint on the left panel, which is now preserved in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin.

Although the work is dated from 1452, it comes across as being rather modern and even slightly surreal. The colours, the lighting, the depth perception and the remarkable norms of beauty of the Madonna enchant young and old alike. Some find the painting, by way of the exposed-perfectly round breast-even slightly erotic.

As a result of this loan, the painting is currently not able to be seen in the exhibition, The Golden Cabinet, in the Antwerp Rockoxhuis. The masterpiece will be back there for viewing at the beginning of June.

The Museo Nacional del Prado is one of the most important museums in the world. It receives some 190.000 each month.

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(News Item 13 February 2014)