Prints in the Age of Bruegel, an exhibition at BOZAR in Brussels
Antwerp was the world centre for the printed image in Bruegel's day. Until 23 June, BOZAR is exhibiting superb "black and white" works from the 16th century, a time when millions of engravings were printed for the whole of Europe and beyond.
Visitors can discover dozens of 16th-century artists, many of them contemporaries of Bruegel. Some of them are famous, such as Albrecht Dürer, whose famous Rhinoceros was one of the most frequently reprinted engravings of the Renaissance.
But the main focus of the exhibition is Bruegel. After his great tour of Italy, the artist lived in Antwerp from 1555 to 1563 and created a number of drawings there for prints distributed by editor Hieronymus Cock.
A number of different factors explain the enormous success of engravings in the mid-16th century, for example it was difficult for images to circulate and the great paintings did not travel. Engravings were therefore a way for artists to make their works known. They also had more freedom to use their imagination on these small formats than on large commissioned paintings. People of letters, architects and princes could also discover the best creations of the time.
We can even confirm that Renaissance ideas were spread through engravings. The educated public wanted to see the marvels of Antiquity, the views of Rome and the works of the great Italian painters (Raphael, Michelangelo and Bronzino). The rich also wanted to discover fashionable decorative items.