Bernard van Orley exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts

20 February 2019 - 26 May 2019

When Bernard van Orley emerged in Brussels (circa 1488), Western Europe was undergoing a major political, cultural, spiritual and artistic revolution. It was the start of the period known as the Renaissance. Art changed from the Gothic featuring exclusively religious subjects to a secular art, inspired by Greco-Roman antiquity and the pioneering great Italian masters. Rome, Florence and Venice were the key cities in this new painting and architectural rebirth, and the grand masters of the Netherlands visited them and took inspiration from their artistic productions.

Between 1515 and 1519, the Raphael cartoons were shipped to Brussels and a number of works by Bernard van Orley display signs of the influence of this Italian master. In 1515, he received his first significant commission to paint the portraits of the six children of Philip 1st of Savoy, known as Philip the Handsome (1478-1506) and Joanna of Castile, known as Joanna the Mad (1479-1555). These portraits included one of the young Charles V (1500-1558), then aged fifteen. Their success would lead van Orley, in 1518, to be appointed as official painter of the Brussels Court of Margaret of Austria (1480-1530) Queen of the Netherlands and sister of Philip the Handsome.

During the decade from 1520 to 1530, Bernard van Orley refocused his activity on creating designs for tapestries and stained-glass windows. One of his most famous series of tapestries "The Hunts of Maximilian" is kept at the Louvre Museum. This series depicts the twelve months of the year with a hunting scene for each month.

In 1539, after the death of his wife Agnes Seghers, Bernard van Orley married Catherina Helluick. He died in 1541 in Brussels, where he is buried.

The Centre for Fine Arts is now dedicating an exhibition to this leading artist, who has been somewhat forgotten, an exhibition that features works from all over the world. For practical information, please visit