THE SMELL OF SUCCESS at Noord Brabants Museum in Den Bosch

Did you visit The Dutch in Paris exhibition, a while back at the Van Gogh Museum? Remember the wonderful paintings of bouquets of flowers and botanical images at its start? These were painted by Gerard van Spaendonck.

Now you are offered a chance to see more of his work, as well as works created by his younger brother. A few days ago, the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch opened its exhibition The Smell of Success. It introduces visitors to the talented brothers and their impressive careers in France.

Both brothers were born in Tilburg during the late 18th century. Gerard (1746-1822) left first, to train as an artist in Antwerp and then traveled to Paris. His younger brother Cornelis (1756-1839), followed in his footsteps and arrived in Paris in 1773.

In France, the brothers became famous for their flower-paintings. These were part of a long tradition going all the way back to the Dutch Golden Age flower-still lives.

Within five years after his arrival, Gerard had made it to the top. King Louis XVI appointed him royal miniature painter, specializing in flower paintings. Gerard’s works decorated the private rooms of Marie-Antoinette and the French aristocracy.

Works by both brothers also decorated trinkets, much sought after by the French aristocracy and bourgeoisie. These include several snuff-boxes displayed in the exhibition.

Cornelis was appointed art director and head of the porcelain works at Sèvres. Not just some pottery, but a factory founded by King Louis XV and his mistress, Madame de Pompadour in 1738. The porcelain works always maintained the highest standards of quality and was world-famous.

As the short introductory video explains at the start of this exhibition: both brothers lived through upheavals. Despite clear ties with the royal court, they survived the French Revolution, witnessed the rise and fall of Napoleon, only to end up working for the restored Bourbon monarchy.

In fact, at the start of this exhibition, visitors come across a guillotine! A display case contains an official letter, signed by King Louis XVI. Nearby hangs a portrait of Napoleon with flower-garland by Gerard. Napoleon awarded him one of the first Légions d’honneur in 1804.

Both brothers became members of the important Académie and exhibited works in its salons. From 1780, Gerard worked as professor of floral painting at the Jardin des Plantes. Visitors come across botanical drawings, as well as paintings and watercolours. The exhibition concludes with many engravings after botanical drawings by both brothers.   Kate    1st May 2019

This exhibition continues un til 25th August. It is not the only exhibition at this museum. Moreover, part of its permanent collection includes works by van Gogh.

Photo by Joep Jacobs, courtesy of NoordBrabants Museum