This archived website 'Flemish primitives' is temporarily not being updated. Certain functionality (e.g. specific searches in the collection) may no longer be available. News updates about the Flemish primitives will appear on Questions about this website? Please contact us at

WORLDVIEW: power and representation

After Rogier van der Weyden, Philip the Good

Art was frequently used in order to portray the ideals or the political pursuits of a master, a citizen or a collective such as a guild. Portraits were used, for example, to provide a ‘face' to a sovreign to the far corners of his realm. Often many copies were made of a successful example, which were disseminated over the entire realm. Examples are the portraits of Philip the Good (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp and Groeninge Museum, Bruges) and John the Fearless (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp). Inscriptions or coats of arms make it clear as to which areas fall under their rule or over which areas they want to make claims. There are also series in which the family bands stand central, with the goal of legitimising the power. These works differ greatly in their character from the portraits that have a private function.

For citizens, altarpieces in public churches offer a subtle possibility to display their power. Willem Moreel is one of the most power citizens of Bruges. He had himself portrayed in the Moreel-Triptych for his landed properties outside of the city.

Anne van Oosterwijk