My day trip to Antwerp, after the Cathedral of Our Lady, where we saw amazing Rubens panels, included Rubens' House and the grandc (Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts), which boasted some masterpiece paintings of several centuries.
My favorite painting in this museum was a fifteen century painting, Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim, a stylish, otherworldly, actually very strange presentation of the Virgin, the Child and some strangely devilish red Seraphim, juxtaposed with equally sinister deep ultramarine blue Cherubim. All the figures were highly stylized and looked like plastic dolls, almost ghoulish; yet with very precise and delicate lines, Maria and Jesus, with their perfectly rounded head and her breasts, one of which exposed, were ultimately quite subtly ravishing, pale, pensive, accepting, frail yet steely, Their tone of pearl gray, brilliantly set off against the elements meant to be supportive and comforting but here not without an under current of menace. Utterly unforgettable.
Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim
1452, oil on panel, 94.5 x 85.5 x 1.2 cm
My second favorite painting there was another strange piece - this time it was the situation but not the presentation - Venus Frigida by Peter Paul Rubens, whose figures were just his usual Rubenesque, confident and glowing, even in distress.
Venus Frigida (Frozen Venus)
Peter Paul Rubens
1614, oil on panel, 145.1 x 185.6 x 38 cm
Here, the love goddess Venus and her son Cupid, stripped of their protections, shivered in the cold, with their naked bodies exposed to the cruel element. Her back to the viewer, showing us her rather muscular physic and he hovering underneath her gauzy veil, shrank to a cute ball, on top of her discarded arrows. It was a funny situation and I wanted to laugh out loud ticked by the sight of the suffering Cupid, cuter than usual, but her accusing eyes stopped me from being insensitive. Even a goddess with a muscular back, she was suffering and it called for compassion. A satyr approached them, with his cornucopia filled with delicacies. Perhaps, as a follower of Bacchus, he was trying to reignite the fire of life in the them; or he was about to take advantage of the vulnerable two. Venus's turned away head might be a rebuke to his advancement. His dark and untidy appearance dramatically contrasted to the refined shapes of Cupid and Venus, adding spices to the drama, so did the stormy dark landscape to the left and the bare tree trunks to the right.
My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 61: My Favorite Paintings at Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
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My Favorite Paintings in Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp (Antwerpen), Belgium
List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited