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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 422 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RENAISSANCE ARCHITECTURE IN BELGIUM AND HOLLAND The Gothic development in the 15th century in Belgium, as evidenced in her magnificent town halls and other public buildings, not only supplied her requirements in the century following, but hindered the introduction of the Classic Revival, so that it is not till the second half of the 16th century that we find in the town hall of Antwerp a building which is perhaps more Italian in design than any work in Germany. There are, how-ever, a few instances of earlier Renaissance, such as the Salm Inn (1534) at Malines; the magnificent chimneypiece, by Conrad van Noremberger of Namur, in the council chamber of the palais de justice at Bruges (1529); and the palais de justice of Liege (1533), formerly the bishop's palace, in the court of which are features suggesting a Spanish influence. The influence of the cinque-cento style of Italy may be noticed in the tomb of the count de Borgnival (1533) in the cathedral of Breda, and in the choir stalls of the church at Enkhuisen on the borders of the Zuyder Zee, both in Holland, and in the choir stalls of the cathedral of Ypres in Belgium; the carving of these bears so close a resemblance to cinque-cento work in design and execution that one might conclude they were the work of Italian artists, but their authors are known to have been Flemish, who must, however, have studied in Italy. Again, in the stained-glass windows of the church of St Jacques at Liege, the details are all cinque-cento, with circular arches on columns, festoons of leaves and other ornament, all apparently derived from Italian sources, but necessarily executed by Flemish painters, as stained-glass windows of that type are not often found in Italian churches. Of public buildings in Belgium, the most noted example is that of the town hall at Antwerp, designed by Cornelius de Vriendt (1564). It has a frontage of over 300 ft. facing the Grande Place, and is an imposing structure in four storeys, arcaded on the lower storey and the classic orders above, with mullioned windows between on the three other storeys, the uppermost storey being an open loggia, which gives that depth of shadow obtained in Italy by a projecting cornice. It is almost the only building in Belgium without the usual gable, the centre block being carried up above the eaves and terminated with an entablature supporting at each end a huge obelisk, and in the centre what looks like the miniature representation of a church. The only other classic building is the Renaissance portion of the town hall at Ghent, which is very inferior to the older Gothic portion. What is wanting in the town halls, however, is amply replaced by the magnificence of the houses built for the various gilds, as for instance those of the Fishmongers at Malines (158o), of the Brewers, the Archers, the Tanners and the Cordeliers (rope-makers) at Antwerp, and, in the Grande Place at Brussels, the gilds of the Butchers, the Archers, the Skippers (the gable end of which represents the stern of a vessel with four cannons protruding), the Carpenters and others. Besides these, and especially in Antwerp, are to be found a very large series of warehouses, which in the richness of their decoration and their monumental appearance vie with the gilds in the evolution of a distinct style of Renaissance architecture—a type from which the architect of the present day might derive more inspiration than from the modest brick houses of Queen Anne's time. In domestic architecture, the best-preserved example of the 16th and 17th centuries is the Musee Plantin at Antwerp, the earliest portion of which dates from 1535. This was bought by Ch. Plantin, who was employed by Philip of Spain to print all the breviaries and missals for Spain and the Netherlands; the fortune thus acquired enabled him and his successors to purchase from time to time adjoining properties which they rebuilt in the style of the earlier buildings. After 1637 the buildings followed the style of the period, but up to that date they were all erected in brick with stone courses and window dressings round a central court. Internally the whole of the ancient fittings are retained, including those of the old shop, the show-rooms, reception rooms and the residential portion of the house, with the wainscotting and Spanish leather on the walls above, panelled ceilings, chimney-pieces, stained glass, &c., the most complete representation of the domestic style of Belgium. Of ecclesiastical architecture in the Renaissance style there are scarcely any examples worth noting. The tows of the church of St Charles Borromeo at Antwerp (1595–1610) is a fine composition similar in many respects to Wren's steeples, and the nave of St Anne's church at Bruges is of simple design and good proportion. The Belgian churches are noted for their immense pulpits, sometimes in marble and of a somewhat degraded style. The finest features in them are the magnificent rood-screens, in which the tradition of the Gothic examples already quoted seems to have been handed down. In the cathedral at Tournai is a fine specimen by Cornelius de Vriendt of Antwerp (1572), and there is a second at Nieuport, both similar in design to the example from Bois-le-Duc now in the Victoria and Albert Museum; and in the church of St Leonard at Lean is a tabernacle in stone, over 50 ft. high, in seven stages, with numerous figures by Cornelius de Vriendt (1550). In Holland, nearly all the principal buildings of the Renaissance date from the time of her greatest prosperity when the Dutch threw off their allegiance to the Spanish throne (1565). With the exception of the palace at Amsterdam (1648-1655), an immense structure in stone with no architectural pretensions, there are no buildings in Holland in which the influence of the purer style of the Italian revival can be traced. Internally the great hall of the palace and the staircase in the Louis XIV. style are fine examples of that period. The earliest Renaissance town hall is that of the Hague (1564), situated at the angle of two streets, which is an extremely picturesque building, in fact one of the few in which the architect has known how to group the principal features of his design. The Renaissance addition made to the old town hall of Haarlem is a characteristic example of the Dutch style. The walls are in red brick, the decorative portions, consisting of superimposed pilasters with mullioned and transomed windows, cornices and gable end, all being in stone. Inside this portion of the town hall, which is now a gallery and museum, is an ancient hall (not often shown to visitors) in which all the decorations and fittings date from the 17th century. There is a second example of an ancient hall in the Stadthuis at Kampen, one of the dead cities of the Zuyder Zee, which served originally as a court of justice, and retains all its fittings of the 16th century, including a magnificent chimneypiece in stone, some 25 ft. high and dated 1543. The town hall at Bolsward in Friesland is another typical specimen of Dutch architecture, in which the red brick, alternating with stone courses running through the semi-detached columns which decorate the main front, has given variety to the usual treatment of such features. The external double flight of steps with elaborate balustrade, and the twisted columns which Rank the principal doorway, are extremely picturesque, if not quite in accordance with the principles of Palladio or Vignola. A similar flight of steps with balustrade forms the approach to the entrance doorway (on the first floor) of the town hall at Leiden, where the rich decoration of the centre block and its lofty gable is emphasized by contrast with the plain design of the chief front. In the three chief cities in Holland, the Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, there are few buildings remaining of 17th-century work,so that they must be sought in the south at Dordrecht and Delft, or in the north at Leiden, Haarlem, Alkmaar, Hoorn, Enkhuisen, or, crossing the Zuyder Zee into Friesland, in Leeuwarden, Bolsward, Kampen and Zwolle, the dead cities. In all these towns ancient buildings have been preserved, there being no resaon to pull them down. Of the entrance gateways at Hoorn there is an example left, of which the lower portion might be taken for a Roman triumphal arch, so closely does it adhere to the design of those monuments, extending even to a long Latin inscription in the frieze. The tower (1531–1652), built to protect the entrance to the harbour, has no gateway. There are some old buildings in Kampen, in one of which the entrance gateway is a simple and fine composition in brick and stone, the chief characteristics of the gateways here being the enormously high roofs of the circular towers flanking them. A finer and more picturesque grouping of roofs exists in the entrance gateway (Amsterdam Gate) at Haarlem, which is perhaps, however, eclipsed by those of the Waaghuis at Amsterdam with its seven conical roofs. The Waaghuisen, or weighing-houses for cheeses, are, next to the town halls, the most important buildings in Holland, and in fact vie with them in richness of design. The example at Alkmaar possesses not only an imposing front with gable in three storeys, but a lofty tower with belfry. At Deventer the main building is late Gothic (1528), in brick and stone, with an external double flight of steps and balustrades added in 1643. The Fleesch Halle (meat-market) at Haarlem, also in brick and stone, is of a very rococo style, but notwithstanding all its vagaries presents a most picturesque appearance. The domestic architecture of Holland and the shop fronts retain more of their original dispositions than will be found in any other country. At Hoorn, Enkhuisen and other towns, there has virtually been no change during the last 200 years. In the more flourishing towns as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the increasing prosperity of the inhabitants led then in the latter portion of the 17th and in the 18th centuries to adapt features borrowed from the French work of Louis XIV. and Louis XV., without, however, their refinement, luxuriance or variety, so that although substantial structures they are extremely monotonous in general effect. (R. P. S.)

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