An exceptional purchase: the collection of work by Philippe and Marcel Wolfers

Jewellery, sculptures, vases, sketches, photos and inventories are just some of the objects that the King Baudouin Foundation has been able to acquire in a collection of over 150 masterpieces and archival material created by Philippe Wolfers (1858-1929), a key figure in Belgian Art Nouveau, and his son Marcel (1886-1976), sculptor and artist who painted on lacquer. The works comprise a selection of the very best pieces created by the leading figures of the Wolfers Frères Company which have always remained in the family.

The outstanding nature of this acquisition lies, of course, in the remarkable quality of the work, but also in the unusual background that made the purchase possible. The excellent relationship that the Royal Museums of Art and History had enjoyed for many years with the Wolfers family was primordial. However, the Museums were also able to count on the support of the King Baudouin Foundation, which did not hesitate to facilitate every initiative that might be of help, notably by purchasing an important piece from the Wolfers collection and by ensuring that the most important pieces were secured after the death of Claire-Nelly Wolfers.

This partnership was further cemented through the close collaboration of the three actors: the Wolfers family, which gave total liberty in the selection of pieces, the Museums, which provided their brilliant expertise for the project, and the King Baudouin Foundation, which has as its mission to safeguard the most significant elements of our heritage for future generations.

In order to make this important purchase, the King Baudouin Foundation’s Heritage Fund worked together with three of the philanthropic funds it manages: the Christian Bauwens Fund, the Braet-Buys-Bartholemus Fund and the Marcel Van Rooy Fund.

The collection includes eight unique pieces of jewellery (all Exemplaires uniques), three sculptures, a painting, thirteen decorative objects and 129 sketches. In addition, the Wolfers family offered important archival material, which provides a wealth of information for further study of the two artists’ work.

Among the jewellery pieces in this collection, the beautiful pendant Libellule (1906) is considered to be the iconic piece of Philippe Wolfers’s work. The 1899 Cygne et Serpents is also very special because Philippe Wolfers created it for his wife, who can be seen proudly wearing it in Firmin Baes’s portrait of her.

This acquisition has enabled a unique family heritage to be saved and made accessible to everyone in Belgium. The main part of the collection will be exhibited from 29 November 2017 at the Royal Museums of Art and History (located in the Cinquantenaire Park, Brussels) and, more specifically, in the new presentation of the Wolfers Shop in the museum.