As a work that falls somewhere between a landscape and a map, this Vue de Bruxelles provides us with a panoramic view of Brussels seen from an aerial perspective, which enables us to see the whole of the city and its ramparts. The city’s principal buildings, painted with great precision, are easy to identify, whilst the houses are more stylised representations.
Thanks to the artist’s acute perception, this painting has exceptional documentary value. We can see buildings, neighbourhoods and fortifications that disappeared during the city’s bombardment by Louis XIV’s soldiers in 1695 and the great fire that followed, as well as the monasteries that were destroyed during the French Revolution and the locks that had meanwhile been demolished. Bonnecroy’s Vue de Bruxelles is also of great interest because it shows, in the most minute detail, the city’s second wall. Built in the 14th century, this fortification was later demolished in order to create the boulevards of the “petite ceinture” or inner ring, finalised in 1840.
At the time it was painted, the work belonged to the Dukes of Arenberg, who kept it in their castle at Heverlee. Around 1960, the picture was sold to a dealer in New York, but the King Baudouin Foundation was able to purchase it in 1990 and return it to Belgium. Today, the painting hangs in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels, the city in which Jean-Baptiste Bonnecroy executed this masterpiece.