Turning Heads exhibition: tronies in the spotlight

09 November 2023 - 21 January 2024

Until 21 January, the newly restored Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) is hosting the exhibition Turning Heads (Krasse koppen). Unlike the portrait approach, the focus here is on the shape of the head itself with facial expressions, lighting and accessories.

Wealthy, influential or famous people have always enjoyed being painted by great artists. In the process, everything revolves around their identity. The artwork should clearly show who is depicted, in all its glorious detail. But as early as the 16th century, a new kind of face emerged: the so-called tronies or anonymous character heads, including drawings, sketches or paintings of peasants, soldiers, jesters and other anonymous people. The models are very recognisable and are often adorned with an eye-catching accessory. This type of intimate portrayal peaked in the 17th century. They were made both as individual works of art in their own right or as studies for larger tableaux, in the Southern and Northern Netherlands.   

KMSKA has succeeded in bringing together a superb collection of 76 national and international masterpieces. The must-see paintings include Girl with a Red Hat by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) and Study for Balthazar by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).   

Could you create your very own tronie? At the exhibition, you can find out for yourself digitally.