This small but attractive museum is named after the Antwerp art collector Fritz Mayer van den Bergh (1858-1901) and features many of the works of art that he collected in the late nineteenth century.
What surprised me about Mayer van den Bergh, when I read about him in the museum’s Gallery Guide (fifth photo), was that in his lifetime he was practically the only collector to take a serious interest in the sixteenth century painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569, also spelled Brueghel or Breughel).
“Mayer van den Bergh stood alone in his interest in Bruegel’s work. Not only was Bruegel almost unknown, but the work of the several painters in the Breughel family was confused. Mayer van den Bergh was the first to distinguish between Pieter Brueghel the Elder and his sons Pieter the Younger and Jan.”
The Gallery Guide explains that in the nineteenth century the art of Brueghel and his contemporaries was “little appreciated” and was “considered of strange or even questionable taste. However, in the twentieth century it was recognized as one of the high points of European painting in general.”
This museum houses the collection of a wealthy merchant who collected lots of art. The museum was created by the man’s mother after his untimely early death in order to display his collection. It is three floors of amazing paintings, sculptures, tapestries, stained glass, furniture, and ivory carvings.
No photos were allowed inside and you were required to put your coats and backpacks in lockers before entering. But the collection, shown in the collector’s private home, is worth a visit. It is not set up like a regular museum, but rather more like a person would display their collection in their home (minus all the furniture in order for people like us to walk around easier). The walls of some of the rooms are actually done in tooled, painted Spanish leather.
One of the finest pieces on display was Messys triptych of the Crucifixtion with St. Jerome and Mary Magdalene. The landscapes and use of blue colors links the three panels together into one scene. It demonstrates the Italian influence on northern painters (its landscapes are similar to Leonardo).
Upstairs were some wonderfully intricate ivory carvings used as small private altars and a wood carving by Christus of Christ and John at the Last Supper. There was a room that had Dulle Griet by Breughel on display, showing women going off to war in a topsy-turvy world.
We only focused on the Renaissance art in this collection, but there was so much more worth seeing in this small private museum. Well worth a visit!
Closed Mondays, open all other days 10.00 – 17.00
Closed on January 1st and 2nd, May 1st, Ascension Day, November 1st and 2nd, December 25th and 26th. Open on Easter Monday and Whit Monday.
• Individual: 8 euro
• Under 12: free
Free admission every last Wednesday of the month
The Museum Mayer Van den Bergh is located in the Lange Gasthuisstraat 19.
This is a museum with an impressive collection of art-treasures.
The Masterpiece in this museum is the world famous painting 'De Dulle Griet' of Pieter Breughel de Oude.
In this museum you can see the art collection of Frits Mayer van den Bergh (1858 - 1901). The collection contains more then 3100 pieces of art dating from the 14th, 15th and 16th century.
Schoorsteenmantel ( 15 th century )
In this world there are some collectors who are touched by grace: Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, who died in 1901, 43 years old, was one of them. After his death, his mother built this jewel of a house in neo-gothic to preserve his precious collection of medieval art and Renaissance. She hired an Antwerp architect, J.Hertogs, for the job. Even empty, this edifice merits a visit, if not only for its multi-coloured marble fireplaces but also for its brocaded hangings and its richly sculpted wainscoting!
The museum opened in 1924. Private property until 1951, the museum was bought by the city.
Take your time because this collection equals manyothers in National museums You can only see art of the highest quality, famous names were not important for Mayer van den Bergh. The collection assembles 3098 art objects and 2,000 medals and coins. Superb retables of the Passion skirt the statues of Evangelists. The top items of the museums are without any contest
the two original Pieter Breughel the Elder paintings: De Dulle Griet and the Twelve Proverbs. This Dulle Griet painting, maybe one of the most important in the world was bought by Mayer van den Bergh in a sale of a Koln for three times nothing. Breughel was not so much appreciated at that time but Mayer understood right away the quality of the painting. He was a very keen collector and Antwerp owes him a lot.
The museum Mayer van den Bergh is the former house of Sir Fritz van den Bergh. He was a big art lover and had a remarkable collection of sculptures from the 12th to the 18th century, silver work, bronze images, tapestries, ceramics, manuscripts, miniatures, and also an extensive collection of paintings from the Low Countries and the Flemish primitives (Breugel, Jordaens, Pourbus and Rubens).
It is here that you can find 1 of the 5 famous paintings by Pieter Breugel the Elder, the 'Dulle Griet'. The other 4 are all in Vienna. The house itself is also a must to see.