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June 8 – October 20, 2024

Saints, Sinners, Lovers and Fools

Three Hundred Years of Flemish Masterworks

Discover The Phoebus Foundation’s world-class collection of early modern Flemish art which will transport you to the Southern Netherlands during a dynamic period of social, scientific, economic and artistic development (1400-1700).

A selection of masterworks

Organized by the Denver Art Museum and The Phoebus Foundation of Antwerp, Belgium, this major exhibition presents masterworks by celebrated artists of the day – Hans Memling, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens and Michaelina Wautier, among many others – and highlights how their timeless, captivating themes continue to connect with audiences today.

The exhibition begins with religious art of the 15th and early 16th centuries. Artworks packed with symbolism and delightful details give visitors an appreciation of how Flemish citizens used images to interact with higher powers, build community and secure their legacy. Following this section is a group of paintings depicting fools and foolish behaviour that showcase how artists used humour to both moralize and entertain.


Artistic and scientific innovations

Moving into the 17th century, subsequent sections highlight Flanders’ significance as a cosmopolitan centre of commerce and innovation, both scientific and artistic. Navigation tools and maps join masterworks by Rubens and Van Dyck, international celebrities whose dramatic painterly styles spoke to the heightened emotions of a society plagued by war and political instability.


Marvellous collections

The exhibition ends in an immersive space inspired by the Kunstkammern and Wunderkammern, elite collections of art and interesting objects from around the world, which became popular during the European Age of Exploration and Colonialization. Often depicted in period paintings, examples of which are on display, such spaces prefigure the modern museum and invite us to consider the range of desires – to connect, to marvel, to possess – that led to their inception.


Audiences will leave the exhibition with a rich understanding of the local and global contexts of Flemish art, an appreciation for its timeless themes and a critical awareness of this period’s integral role in shaping the world we live in. The Montreal presentation is complemented by selections from the MMFA’s renowned collection of Flemish art.

Credits and curatorial team

An exhibition co-organized by the Denver Art Museum and The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium, in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Katharina Van Cauteren, Chief of Staff of The Phoebus Foundation Chancellery. The Montreal presentation is curated by Chloé M. Pelletier, Curator of European Art (before 1800) at the MMFA.

Official Sponsor

Media Partners

Public Partners

Hans Memling and Workshop (1433-1494), The Nativity, about 1480, oil on panel, 112.7 x 86.7 x 7.9 cm. © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), A Sailor and a Woman Embracing, about 1614-1615, oil on panel, 100.1 x 79.3 x 6.5 cm. © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium

Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Mary, the Christ Child and Saint John, about 1627-1630, oil on canvas, 172 x 138 x 10 cm. © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium

Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus (1523-1605), Amerigo Vespucci Rediscovers America, from the series “Nova Reperta” [New Inventions of Modern Times], about 1590, engraving, 32.7 x 42.7 x 4.8 cm. © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), The Serenade, about 1640, oil on canvas, 137.5 x 179 x 9 cm. © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium

Michaelina Wautier (1604-1689), Everyone to His Taste, about 1650, oil on canvas, 93 x 109 x 10 cm. © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium

Peeter Neeffs the Younger (1620 - after 1675), Gillis van Tillborch (1625-1678), Elegant Couple in an Art Cabinet, 1652, and about 1675, oil on canvas, 131 x 158.3 x 8.6 cm. © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp, Belgium

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