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How do you encourage a modern-day public to experience 15th century religious art?

Press Release   •   Feb 20, 2013 12:30 GMT

The exhibition Doorways to the Sacred. Golden glimpses of the Netherlandish Renaissance offers several multimedial stations where the public can immerse themselves in the thematic aspects. Using interactive installations, elements associated with the art can be visually explored.The exhibition, which is open from 22 February to 12 May, features an exclusive selection of 15th and 16th century paintings from the Netherlands. In addition to the 23 works on loan, five paintings from the National Museum’s own collection are also on display.


During the 15th century and into the 16th century, artists such as Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden and Quinten Metsys created paintings that portrayed heavenly truths in a realistic world. The exhibition focuses mainly on paintings with biblical and hagiographic motifs.

Flemish court and city culture
In the 15th century, art in the Netherlands took on great importance for the development of the Renaissance in Europe. The international success of such art was due to Flanders’ political, economic and cultural importance – and not least the affluence of cities such as Bruges and Antwerp.

Oil paintings and Christian symbolism

The pioneering work of these painters was founded on the revolutionary use of oil as an adhesive. This enabled them to paint pictures with a hitherto unseen wealth of detail, depth of colour and texture. At the same time, the Christian motifs and mysticism of the late Middle Ages could be brought into a new era. 

Madonna Lactans
In the late Middle Ages the Madonna Lactans, or Nursing Madonna, attained widespread cult status. The caring mother giving milk became seen as a portrayal of her own humaneness and consideration for all believers by providing them with corporeal as well as spiritual nourishment.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the National Museum and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp. In addition, an altar wing has been loaned from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. A companion piece is found in Antwerp, and the two are to be reunited at the exhibition in Oslo.

The curators for the exhibition are Frode Haverkamp, senior curator, and Frithjof Bringager, senior curator education.


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