The Museum of Flanders in Cassel is the only museum that highlights the depth, richness and variety of Flanders’ cultural and artistic identity. Housed in the splendid Hôtel de la Noble-Cour in the small town of Cassel, it re-opened in October 2010 after a 13-year closure and a massive 7.5 million Euro renovation of this glorious 16th -century building.
The Hôtel de la Noble-Cour in the central Place de Cassel is an unusual building. The crow-stepped roof fits into the Flemish feel of the town, but the rich facade is covered in Renaissance griffins and grotesque figures. And at the back, the view of the building takes you straight into a 16th-century Flemish painting. Turn the other way and you look onto a pretty garden with the countryside stretching out beyond.
A Tour of the Museum and Some Highlights
Start on the top floor where the paneled, high-ceilinged 15th- to 18th-century rooms are filled with Old Masters and contemporary art, sculpture and objects. The museum is divided into themes that reflect essential Flemish characteristics like Between Earth and Sky (Earthly and Spiritual Matters) and Moderation vs Excess. But don’t worry if you don't want to follow this very French philosophical approach to the museum -- just enjoy the setting and the art.
In Room 1, the paneled walls are made up of a series of cupboards. Running along the bottom half are cupboards with names on –- 52 of them to cover the 52 parishes that made up the municipality. Above this, large opened cupboards are filled with objects of an extraordinary eclectic nature, harking back to the Cabinet of Curiosities of the past. It was the habit, and fashion of noble lords who had colelcted all kinds of art and strange objects to put them into cabinets and show them to friends who came to call. It was just like a private museum.
Throughout the permanent collection galleries, you come across contemporary art, much of it specially commissioned by the Museum from Flemish artists. Some of the objects are designed to play with and touch, which fascinates children. Others have been chosen to make you reflect on today’s attitudes and those of the past
Specific highlight include The Virgin and the Donor Joos vanden Damme, an anomymous painting from the Flemish school of 1484; works by David Teniers and Van Dyck, as well as artists who are less well known outside Flanders and this part of France like van deer Heyden (1530-1575), and Alexis Bafcop (1804-1895).
Temporary exhibitions run throughout the year and are included in the price of admission.
Museum of Flanders Location and Contact Info:
The ticket includes an audio guide (in English) and admission to temporary exhibition. The shop is open at the same times as the museum.
How to get to Cassel:By car: Autoroute A25, exit number 13 to Steenvoorde. 40 minutes from Lille; 35 minutes from Dunkerque.
By train:There are trains to Cassel from Lille, but the station is some way from the town, down the hill and you will have to take a taxi.