L’ Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage is an incredible Flemish-Baroque building (completed in 1676) that I discovered in Brussels this month. It is situated just north of the Grande Place, close to Place Sainte-Catherine. The above image of the front facing external facade appears to soar into the sky, drawing any bystander in through its dramatic central projection.
If the dynamic exterior isn’t enough to play with your senses and spatial perception, the interior – an explosion of intricate detail and complex geometry, may create a stronger impression!
The architect of this masterpiece Luc Fayd’Herbe, was a student of Rubens. His inspiration from Rubens is apparent in his architecture, particularly in his powerful use of strong light-and-shade contrasts (creating chiaroscuro effects). The creation of various sized and shaped windows located at different heights, control the way light enters the space and aids illusory effects. Also, the Baroque feeling of objects entering one’s space and paintings spilling out of a two-dimensional space or canvas to touch the viewer, is certainly present. It is captured through a plethora of fluid interconnected curving and linear structures that can play with one’s perception, sense of space and imagination.
I was not aware of the great influence that the painter Paul Rubens had on architecture. Through his book ‘Palazzi di Genova‘ which, depicts and describes palaces of Genoa he introduced contemporary Italian architecture models to his students in the Netherlands. Rubens even had his own house (Rubenshuis, Antwerp) built in the Genoese style of architecture. I’m guessing Ruben’s played an important role as an artist and educator in initiating Luc Fayd’Herbe’s interest and understanding of Baroque-style, and in enabling him to evolve creatively and to cultivate ideas to develop a new kind of Baroque.
I have some more images which I’ll post at some point..