Day Six: Antwerp to Delft – Reubens and Porcelain

On Friday, the 19th, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel before packing up our belongings (which grew exponentially due to souvenirs) and driving an hour-and-a-half to the Belgium city of Antwerp. It was once Europe’s most important trading city (during the 1600s), and was the home of one of the most important European painters Peter Paul Rubens. Although destroyed during WW II, it is now thriving. Oh… and it also has a beautiful, soaring cathedral with three Rubens masterpieces!

Saying goodbye to our room with a view in Bruges

A roadside windmill en route to Antwerp.

We found a place to park not far from Rubens house, which he and his first wife bought in 1610. He remodeled the house on the order of an Italian palazzo and stocked it with classical sculpture and world class art. Ruben married his trophy 16 year-old second wife in 1630 at the age of 53. Ruben died while living here in 1640.

The House of Peter Paul Rubens, the great Flemish Baroque painter.

An interior room of Ruben’s house. The house has been extensively remodeled and has very little of the original decor. That is a Rubens painting of his wife to the left however.

The most valuable painting to be identified in Antiques Roadshow history: An Anthony Van Dyke picked up by a priest in an antique shop for about $600.00. It was discovered to a be a Van Dyke (Ruben’s cousin) and is valued at 100 times that amount. It is now on display at Rubens’ House.

Ruben’s studio in his house, where he painted masterpiece after masterpiece.

About a half-mile away, we found the Gothic Antwerp Cathedral, whose central spire rises 400 feet above the street below. We were pleased to find a beautiful Baroque interior (Baroque primarily because it was gutted by fire in 1533 and then stripped of its beautiful adornments by Protestants in 1566). The highlight was viewing the powerful Raising of the Cross and the equally powerful Descent from the Cross, both by Peter Paul Rubens. We were only able to spend a couple of hours in Antwerp because our destination for the next couple of nights was across the border in the Netherlands, in the charming town of Delft.

The towering Antwerp Cathedral

Cindy’s favorite part of the Cathedral may have been this modern child and puppy sculpture in the square in front of the church.

Interior of the Cathedral

The Elevation of the Cross, in which muscled men struggle to lift the weight of the dying savior on the cross.

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, completed in 1626 as an altarpiece for the high altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp,

Rubens’ Descent from the cross, the other bookend to the Assumption.

Rogier Van der Weyden, The Lamentaion of Christ, in the Cathedral

We arrived in Delft around 2 p.m. After parking the car, settling in, and resting for a few moments, we walked approximately one mile to the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory, where we received a really nice tour of their museum and factory. The Royal Dutch factory is the biggest tourist attraction in town. It is the only remaining porcelain factory from the 17th century, when the porcelain trade was booming in Delft. The classic dutch blue-and-white style of porcelain was borrowed from the Chinese whose works became known in Europe due to the trade of the Dutch East India Company, partly headquartered in Delft. Learning about the Delft Blue manufacturing process was quite interesting. We were even able to tour the factory where the porcelain is still hand made and hand painted.

On one of the bridges above the canal in front of our hotel.

Do you tire of canal views? I don’t!

At the Royal Dutch Porcelain Factory

A Delft porcelain artist at work

Three stages of Porcelain making. The “biscuit” on the left has already been fired once. The “Delft Blue” has been applied in the middle (although it is black when applied). And, finally, on the right, after the second firing, a chemical reaction takes place producing the characteristic cobalt blue.

Standing in front of this full-sized, hand-painted reproduction of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch on porcelain tiles.

Factory worker applying some spray to a large porcelain apple.

We stopped for soda on the way back to the hotel and found these cans of Coca-cola light. It was nice of them to remind us of our sailing days in the Caribbean.

Another Delft Canal View

Our hotel in Delft is the Bridges House Hotel, in the center of town. It was once the home of the famous Dutch painter, Jan Steen. Pretty cool! Our exciting day was topped off with a fantastic dinner at the Van der Dussen restaurant, right on the Oulde Delft canal, the same canal upon which our hotel sits. After a short walk along the canal, we dined on the best meal of the trip, a five-course meal with wine pairings with each course. Heavenly!

The view from our hotel in Delft

The Bridges House Hotel, aka, Jan Steen’s former home.

Canal View!

Wife view (with canal)!

Standing in front of the wonderful restaurant, Van der Dussen

We sat in the open courtyard of the Van der Dussen

One of our courses, tuna. The watermelon with basil mayonnaise which accompanied it was one of the most amazing things my mouth has ever tasted.

Enjoying our fine dining.

De Roos (The Rose) Windmill in Delft, not far from our hotel, dating to 1679.

4 thoughts on “Day Six: Antwerp to Delft – Reubens and Porcelain

  1. Beautiful canal pictures! I know you loved all the paintings! They were awesome (& talk about robbing the cradle!! 16 yo & he was 53??! wow!)

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