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Flanders tourist board buys 17th-century painting to return to Bruges abbey

13:18 23/01/2022

Flemish tourism agency Toerisme Vlaanderen has purchased a more than 350-year-old painting for the first time and returned it to its original location.

The 17th-century painting commemorates the story of an 11-year-old girl on the verge of death who recovered miraculously.

In 1652, the parents of the child donated the painting to the Abbey of Saint Godelieve in Bruges in gratitude for the healing.

However, over the years, the painting went through a number of changes of ownership, eventually ending up with the the Wöllenstein family from the Netherlands, from whom Toerisme Vlaanderen bought the work.

Toerisme Vlaanderen chief executive Peter De Wilde said this was a first for the organisation. "We brought the work home," he said.

"It is important to discover the heritage where it was originally created. This 'in situ' approach to art is different from traditional ways to exhibit art such as in museums, by recreating the original setting for the art.

"The value of this votive portrait is not that it was painted by a great Flemish master, but that it allows you to feel what this place meant to people.

"It forms the soul of a place and in that way we improve the visitor experience, and encourage residents and businesses think about the incredible artistic and cultural richness that the city has to offer."

Written by Richard Harris