The start of the 16th century Tradition and renewal

In 1507, Margarete of Austria was appointed Regent of the Low Countries and settled in Mechelen. Pierre Coustain and Aert van den Bossche left Brussels for Bruges, while others, following the example of Goossen van der Weyden, Rogier’s grandson, left to work in Antwerp attracted by the city’s dazzling economic performance.

In Brussels, painting experienced a moment of transition: while still perpetuating the tradition inherited from the great masters of the fifteenth century, it gradually opened up to forms and conceptions that had been developed in Italy.

Bernard van Orley perfectly exemplifies this evolution. Fond of narrative decomposition and the detailed description of decorative elements, he made use of models drawn from Van der Weyden and Van der Goes. In parallel, however, he introduced several innovations: tight framing that intensified a work’s expressive power, increased musculature of his figures, and enhanced attention to the depiction of movement. He also integrated motifs derived from Italian masters like Raphael, Perugino and Leonardo da Vinci, whose famous compositions had been reproduced in tapestries woven in Brussels.