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GHENT.- The MSK houses more than 60 Dutch paintings from the 17th century, a period known as ‘The Golden Age’ by its northern neighbours. On the occasion of ‘Gent Kleurt Oranje’, this rich collection comes under scrutiny: when was it established and how was it subsequently developed? What is the relationship between the North and South? And is everything really what it seems? This autumn, the MSK has gone in search of answers to these questions and shine the spotlight upon this unique, sometimes curious, collection. 

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Melchior d'Hondecoeter, Water fowl (Watervogels), ca. 1686, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

An outstanding collection 
The MSK boasts one of the most remarkable collections of Dutch painting outside the Netherlands. It includes works by masters such as Frans Hals, Jan van Goyen, Willem Claesz. Heda, Albert Cuyp and Roelant Savery. In addition, the museum owns some extremely rare pieces. It possesses the only known work by AE van Rabel, while Almshouse in Utrecht by Joost Cornelisz Droochsloot is the only known image of that institution.  

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Cornelis de Heem, Still life with flowers and fruits (Stilleven met bloemen en fruit), 1670, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

Curious pieces 
The collection also includes a number of works that can, with good reason, be called curious. Some works were painted over in the course of time or added to, a phenomenon that came to light during the restorations that were undertaken with the support of the King Baudouin Foundation. Other paintings appear to have been cut from larger canvases and sold separately – a typical practice in the art trade of the 19th century. And then there are the peculiar interpretations of certain works, some more credible than others... 

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Willem Claesz. Heda, Still life with ham and bread (Stilleven met ham en brood), 1649, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

Innovative presentation 
On 10 October, the MSK reveals the fascinating story behind this 17th-century collection through a brand new presentation. In the newly renovated galleries, visitors can explore the link between the Northern and Southern Netherlands, encounter previously unseen works and view the paintings ‘in context’ for the very first time. The furniture, objects and the curiosities that provided models for the artist will also be on display: dishes, pots and glassware will be exhibited alongside the still lifes, while prints, stuffed birds and shells will be shown in the vicinity of the animal paintings. Ostensibly, the paintings are exhibited in way that is similar to how they might once have been hung in wealthy households.  

Hendrick Andriessen, Vanitas, 17th century, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent

Hendrick Andriessen, Vanitas, 17th century, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

Le Boudoir des Mortes by Isabelle de Borchgrave 
Isabelle de Borchgrave has created paper collars especially for MSK, a nod to the iconic starched ruffs seen in the 17th-century portraits. These are included within the historical presentation, under the title Le Boudoir des Mortes.

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Roelant Savery, Paradise landscape with animals (Paradijselijk landschap met dieren), 17th century, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

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AE Van Rabel, Still Life (Stilleven), 17th century, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

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Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem, Animals (Dieren (fragment uit groter geheel)17th century,Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

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Frans Hals, Women Portrait (Damesportret)17th century,Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

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Joost Cornelisz. Droochsloot, Village Fair (Dorpskermis)17th century,Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

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Albert Jansz. van der Schoor, The smoker (De roker), ca. 1656, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.

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Reinier Nooms, Seascape (Zeegezicht)17th century, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent.