The largest single painting in Belgium is making a triumphant return to the building where it hung for 240 years before it was removed for restoration. The 18th-century ceiling painting, The Gods on Mount Olympus, will be brought back to its home in Antwerp’s Hofkamer building on August 25th, following an absence of eight years. The painting was restored offsite, while the Hofkamer building was simultaneously fully renovated.
The 16th-century Hofkamer is part of the historical Den Wolsack complex in the city’s center. The Gods on Mount Olympus, painted on canvas by an unnamed artist, is 70 square yards, the largest ceiling painting in Western Europe. It is a remarkable example of quadratura, a tradition in Rococo art that gives the illusion of an arch shape or an open sky. One end of the rectangle shape seems to meld seamlessly into the fireplace at the end of the room. The 32 gods, goddesses and other divinities sit among the clouds, many staring upwards towards Zeus. The painter – or rather the painters – is unknown. “We know there is more than one painter because there is a difference between the architectural motifs and the figures,” explains Bart Jonckheere of Erfgoed Vlaanderen, who heading up the restoration project. “The architectural motifs are of better quality.”
Completed in 1772, the painting was commissioned by François Adrien Van den Bogaert, a rich merchant “who wanted to impress his colleagues,” says Jonckheere. The painting will be returned by a special transport under police protection.