Portrait of a family with a royal prince in a palace courtyard

Lancelot Volders

When this impressive painting by Lancelot Volders (1636–1723) was put up for sale in Vienna in October 2016, it quickly became apparent that it was unique. The work provides a precious testimony to the urban landscape of Brussels prior to the city being bombarded by Louis XIV’s troops in 1695. The patrician house represented is one of the rare documented examples of civil Renaissance and Baroque architecture in the Belgian capital.

The painting was acquired by the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund and two Brussels patrons, Marnix Galle, President of Immobel, and Patrick Baillieux, and has been entrusted to the City of Brussels Museum (Maison du Roi).

Brussels-born Lancelot Volders spent much of his working life in Friesland, at the court of Henri Casimir II of Naussau-Dietz (1657-1696). However, this group portrait, signed and dated 1666, is a work made at the beginning of his career and is a masterpiece from his time in Brussels.

The canvas portrays a family of rich dignitaries in the courtyard of a prestigious patrician Belgian house. The tower of the building, destroyed during the 1695 bombardment of Brussels by Louis XIV’s troops, rhymes with the steeple of the Brussels Town Hall (middle left, behind the wall).

In the foreground, we see thirteen characters of all ages (who have yet to be identified), facing the onlooker. Their clothes indicate their various social statuses. Rich merchants generally wore black, whilst the paler colours were typically worn by members of the aristocracy, as can be seen on the figures around the young prince (recognisable by his shoes with red heels), who is playing with the dog.

This work is of particular interest for the careful rendering of numerous details, such as the architecture of a private mansion, the steeple of the Town Hall, the various busts, the musical instruments, the ice bucket, the fauna and flora and the plaque bearing a coat of arms in the upper right of the painting (although this was probably a later addition).

Material / technique: 
Oil on canvas
170 x 225 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Purchase by the Léon Courtin - Marcelle Bouché Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Brussels City Museum (Maison du Roi)