Bruges’ most celebrated art gallery boasts an astonishingly rich collection that's strong in superb Flemish Primitive and Renaissance works, depicting the conspicuous wealth of the city with glittering realistic artistry. Meditative works include Jan Van Eyck’s radiant masterpiece Madonna with Canon Van der Paele (1436) and the Madonna Crowned by Angels (1482) by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, where the rich fabric of the Madonna’s robe meets the ‘real’ foliage at her feet with exquisite detail.
The Townscapes and Landscapes room features visions of the city, with picturesque scenes by Jan Anton Garemijn, as well as Auguste Van de Steene’s austere view of the market square. Gruesome scenes feature in other rooms, including a live flaying in Gerard David’s Judgement of Cambyses (1498; room 1) and the multiple tortures of St George (room 3). Later artistic genres also get a look-in, including a typically androgynous figure by superstar symbolist Fernand Khnopff, plus a surrealist canvas each from Magritte and Delvaux. Flemish Expressionist works from the 1920s show the influence of cubism and German expressionism on Flemish artists – most striking are Constant Permeke’s earth-coloured depictions of peasant life in Pap Eaters and The Angelus.