In a unique exhibition, the Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City Art Museum presents masterpieces of the 15th to 18th century from the collection of Baron Samuel von Brukenthal from April 27 to October 14, 2012.
The Brukenthal National Museum in Sibiu (Hermannstadt), Romania possesses one of the most important collections of old masters in Southeast Europe. Among works by Italian, Flemish, Dutch, and German artists, there are paintings by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Jacob Jordaens, Lucas Cranach, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Lorenzo Lotto, and Titian. The exhibition introduces the cultural and aesthetic world of an 18th-century collector and offers diverse audiences the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the immense treasures of a collection that is largely unknown in this country.
Samuel von Brukenthal (1721-1803) held high offices in the court of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa and at her request became Governor of Transylvania (Siebenbürgen). As Brukenthal rose socially, he assembled an extensive collection. In keeping with the encyclopedic spirit of the Enlightenment, he not only collected paintings but also books, coins, medallions, gems, engravings, and minerals. Parts of the collection housed in the Governor’s Palace in Sibiu were opened to the public in 1817.
At the center of the exhibition is Brukenthal’s collection of paintings, which he began in 1759. Even in his time, it was highly regarded by his contemporaries. In addition to paintings by Italian artists, Brukenthal primarily possessed works by Dutch and Flemish as well as German and Austrian masters. Inspired by the imperial collection in Vienna, he organized the paintings according to schools and displayed them in his gallery according to nationality. This exhibition follows this form of presentation, which for its time was completely novel, showing a selection from each school in three central rooms.
A Crucifixion by Antonello da Messina, an Ecce Homo by Titian, and the Head of a Youth by Veronese are noteworthy paintings from the Quattrocento and the Cinquecento represented in the collection. Paintings by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Frans Boels, Jacob Jordaens, and others are among the Flemish and Dutch works. A Virgin Mary by Lucas Cranach the Elder and portraits by Hans Schwab von Wertinger represent German painting from the early modern period.
In preparation for the exhibition, the Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique (IRPA) in Brussels extensively researched and restored a painting from the Brukenthal collection, The Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The exhibition culminates with this extremely important painting, researched and conserved by the IRPA, in the “Breughel Hall,” where paintings from the Brukenthal collection are complemented by two paintings by the Breughel family from the Villa Vauban’s own collection.
A richly illustrated catalogue by the Deutscher Kunstverlag (in German) as well as the second issue of the museum journal La Villa (in French) accompany the exhibition.