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Image of el award Travellers’ Choice given to the better attractions on Tripadvisor.
Broaden Horizons
Paris
Image of el award Travellers’ Choice given to the better attractions on Tripadvisor.
Broaden Horizons
Paris
Image of el award Travellers’ Choice given to the better attractions on Tripadvisor.

Louvre’s Flemish and Dutch Paintings Tour 

The Louvre’s Flemish and Dutch painting tour is a Louvre private guided tour dedicated to the evolution of low countries paintings from the 15th to the 17h centuries. Discover the amazing Louvre Northern Schools collection with our licensed guide lecturer.

Night view of the old city of Bruges and canal to illustrate the Louvre Flemish and Dutch painting private tour, Paris, France.

Bruges the city of Flemish Primitives where all begun.

Louvre Flemish and dutch paintings private tour essentials  

  1. Guided tour in English
  2. Three tour options: Flemish only, Dutch only, Flemish & Dutch
  3. From 90 € for 1 to 2 people, 115 € for 3 etc.
  4. Really private tour (your party only 6 people max)
  5. Flexible time schedule
  6. Postgraduate (MPhil) certified French national guide
  7. Availability: not on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursday

Tour with Skip-the-line ticket to buy on line (optionaly we can do it for you).
Skip-the-line-ticket clarification: they are just standard online tickets.

KNOW MORE / BOOK NOW

What’s in the tour?

Flemish Primitive

Flemish Renaissance

Romanism

Dutch Golden Age

Flemish Baroque

A selection of masterpieces by famous Flemish painters: van Eyck, van der Weyden, Memling, Gerard David, Bosch, Quentin Matsys, Joachim Patinir, Pieter Brueghel, Jan Mabuse, Frans Floris, Jan Matsys, Marten de Vos, Otto van Veen, Hell Brueghel, Velvet Brueghel, Rubens, van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens.

A selection of masterpieces by famous Dutch painters: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, Gerrit Dou, Frans Hals, Van Ruisdael, Pieter Claesz, Willem Kalf, Willem Claeszoon Heda, Willem van de Velde, Ludolf Backhuysen, Frans Post, Ambrosius Bosschaert, Balthasar van der Ast, Emmannuel de Witte, Cornelisz Van Vliet, Abraham Bloemaert, Gerrit van Honthorst, Joachim Wtewael.

Why a Louvre Flemish and Dutch Painting Tour?

The Louvre owns one of the world’s biggest collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings out of Belgium and the Netherlands. This exceptional collection was initialy developed by the French kings from the very beginning of the Northern Schools. An opportunity to discover a more quiet Louvre far away from the crowd of the Italian galleries and the Mona Lisa.

Your Private Tour Guide in Paris

Certified French national guide
BA, Magna Cum Laude, Heritage Developpement & Preservation from Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers
Postgraduate from Paris Dauphine-PSL University

Don’t miss our louvre Flemish and Dutch Paintings private tour 
a great opportunity to discover this strategic period in arts!

Organization of the Tour

Guided Tour Structure

The full Louvre’s Flemish and Dutch painting tour is organized in a six parts chronological order except for the 17th century for which Flemish Baroque and Dutch painting are presented one after the other.

Three Possible Versions of The Tour

As the tour field is vast we have made the tour more flexible by opening tree options.

  • The full Flemish & Dutch painting Louvre tour: +/- 3 hours
  • The Flemish paintings Louvre tour (part 1 to 5 ): +/- 2 hours
  • The Dutch golden age painting Louvre tour (part 4 & 6): +/- 2 hours

As you can notice in the tours durations if you want to go deeper in the fields you should better follow the Flemish Paintings Tour and the Dutch Golden Age Tour than the full Flemish & Dutch Painting Tour.

The Flemish Primitives – The Bruges’ Golden Age

“Flemish Primitives” refers to the artists who developed early Netherlandish paintings in the 15th century in the Burgundian State (a zone mainly corresponding to nowadays Benelux). “Flemish Primitives” come from the French « Primitifs Flamands » an expression in which the word primitive does not have to be understood as crude but as pioneers. These painters were, as the Italians, precursors of the Renaissance art revolution.

Being the economical capital of the Burgundian State till its fall in 1477, Bruges was the epicenter of this artistic period often called the Brudges Golden Age. Among all the louvre masterpieces of the period are some exceptional paintings from two of the three great Early Flemish artists: Van Eyck and van der Weyden.

Jan van Eyck is one of the most important painters in the history of art due notably to a prominent role in the development of oil painting and portraits. His « Rolin-Madonna » (1435) is a Louvre must-see, a work with an amazing level of details supporting an infinite number of interpretations. A Rolin-Madona macrophotography is available on KIK-IRPA website.

Rogier van der Weyden (or Roger de la Pasture), became the most prestigious Flemish painter after the death of van Eyck in 1441. He had been a pupil of Robert Campin who is usually identified as the Master of Flemalle the remaining great Early Flemish painter. Three of his works are in the Louvre:

  • The Braque Familly Triptych  (only surviving private devotional work by van der Weyden)
  • The Annunciation (Strongly influenced by the one of Campin in the MET, New York)
  • The Portrait of the Duke of Cleves (A nephew of Philip the Good duke of Burgundy)

Hans Memling despite being German became a reference of the Bruges’ Golden Age. The louvre houses one of the biggest concentration of his masterpieces. Among them are: “Angel with an Olive Branch” a work full of softness, “the madonna and Child with Saint James and Saint Dominic“, an exceptional sacred conversation or « The Triptych of the Resurrection » a work clearly influenced by the Italian painting. Italian and Flemish schools of painting were, from fare, the greatest of the period and were influencing each other.  

This Italian influence is also visible in “The triptych of the family Sedano” by Gerard David another main painter of the Bruges School. His death (1523) is considered by many art historians as the end of the Flemish primitive period even if some others let it go to the death of Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1568 or even later.

 

Photo of a map of the Burgundian State during the reign of Charles the Bold to illustrate the Louvre Flemish and Dutch painting guided tour.

Flemish primitives developped there art in the Burgunian State under the reign of the duke Philip the Good in the 15th century. The duke’s Chancelor Nicolas Rolins is the sponsor and the one represented on the “Rolin-Madonna” painting by Jan van Eyck and is also the sponsor of the “Beaune Altarpiece” by Rogier van de Weyden. After the death of the duke Charles the Bold in 1477 the Burgundian State was dismanteled. Burgundian duchy went to the king of France meanwhile the lows countries went the Hasbourg house. Credit wikipedia, Marco Zanoli.

Last but not least is Hieronymus Bosch a major artist with a very specific style made of fantastic illustrations with macabre, nightmarish, and mocking depictions. Because of its fame and success Bosch has been intensively copied all along the 16th century. Pieter Brugel the Elder himself started as one of his followers.

Bosch’s « Ship of Fools » (ca. 1500) is another Louvre Flemish painting must-see.

With so many Bosch copies in circulation in the world, it is one of the rare works which is considered authentic by the Bosch Research and Conservation Project. This key painting can be read as a critic of certain aspects of the catholic church. The work clearly refers to Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools) a satirical allegory of 1494 illustrated by a young Albrecht Dürer in which the humanist and theologian Sebastian Brant lashed the weaknesses and vices of the time.

The work is an open door to the next chapiter of the Flemish painting tour: Humanism and Reformation.

After 1500 with the silting up of its port, Bruges started to lose its economic prosperity and meanwhile its artistic leadership and was rapidly replaced in both aspects by Antwerp as Habsburg low countries flagship.

Photo of "An allegory of intemperance" by Bosch to illustrate the Louvre Flemish and Dutch painting guided tour.

It was recently discovered that the “Ship of Fools” by Bosch is a fragment along with “An Allegory of Intemperance” (Yale University Art Gallery), of the left wing of a triptych (now dismantled). Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery.

Flemish Renaissance – humanism and reformation

Our tour will continue with three main painters of the Flemish Renaissance representative of the Antwerp School: Quentin Matsys, Joachim Patinir (Patinier) and Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

There are four Quentin Matsys in the Louvre. The two more famous ones are:

The “Money Changer and his Wife” (signed 1514) is a typical Flemish genre painting scene, but also an allegory and a memento mori full of symbolism. A little convex miror in the middle of the work is a clear reference to the « Arnolfini Portrait » by van Eyck.

The “Mary Magdalena” (ca. 1515), is also an exceptional work full of the grace and the softness of the Antwerpen mannerism as of symbols and references to the works of Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden and Leonardo da Vinci.

Both masterpieces entered quite recently in the Louvre collections (2005 and 2006, thanks to the support of Crédit Immobilier de France).

The end of the 15th century saw an important evolution in arts: the beginning of landscape as independent painting style, with a clearly identified main pioneer: Joachim Patinier.

The Louvre « Saint Jerome in the Desert » (1521) by Patinier is an ideal tool to understand the characteristic of the first Flemish Landscapes. Not far is an autoportrait of a man who wrote about the quality of landscape paintings of his friend Patiner: Albrech Durer the most famous German Painter of the Renaissance.

The Louvres houses two Pieter Brueghel the Elder works. A copy of “The Parable of the Blind” by his soon Pieter Brueghel the Younger, and a tiny original (18,5 × 21,5 cm) « The Beggars », which is easy to miss. It is nevertheless an interesting painting, for its possible interpretations and the influence of Hieronymus Bosch in terms of grotesque as in pictorial realism.

It was painted on year before the death of Peter Bruguel in 1668, the year of the begining of the Eighty Years’ War which ended with the independance of the low countries from Spain.

Romanism

As it can be guessed Romanism is all about the influence of Italian art on the Flander one. More precisely about the late Italian Renaissance (called mannerism) on the Antwerpen Artists. Nevertheless, the movement was initiated by Jan Mabuse (or Jan Gossaert), as soon as 1510 right after his 1508-1510 voyage to the high Renaissance Italy and more specifically Rome when Michelangelo and Raphael were working in Vaticano.

The Diptych Carondelet signed 1517 by Jan Mabuse is part of the Louvre collections.

The reference for the development of Italian mannerism in Flander is Frans Floris, but a big part of his work was destroyed  in the 1566 Beeldenstorm (iconoclastic attacks by Calvinist Protestant crowds). Floris never recovered from it and his production then drastically decreases. His Louvre “Allegory of the Trinity” was painted four years before the drama.

The same year, Jan Matsys, soon of Quentin Matsys, painted “David and Bathsheba” a work in which his Italian mannerism is visibly influenced by the French School of Fontainbleau.

But the one who picked up the torch of Romanism after Fran Floris was Marten de Vos, his Louvre “Saint Paul Bitten by a Viper on the Island of Malta” is dated from the year of the Beeldenstorm, 1566.

De Vos established in 1572 the Guild of Romanists, having traveled to Rome was a condition to accede membership of the fraternity.

Among the members of the Guild of Romanists were some other very famous artists as Otto van Veen or Jan Brueghel the Elder, respectively master and close friend of Peter Paul Rubens and also Peter Paul Rubens himself who will become the most prominent actor of next artistic movement: the Flemish Baroque.

Photo of "Danae", by Jan Gossaert (Mabuse),1527 to illustrate the Louvre Flemish and Dutch painting guided tour.

Returning from High Renaissance Italy in 1510 Jan Gossaert was the first one to dare to draw and then to paint nude figures in Flander. His Danae is a fantastic synthesis between the nudity introduced by the Italian Renaissance rediscovery of ancient Rome sculptures and references to Jan van Eyck’s art of detailed architecture. Jan Gossaert gen. Mabuse, Danae, 1527, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München, CC BY-SA 4.0

1585 The turning point: Flemish Baroque versus Dutch Golden Age

Sixteenth-century Reformation did not have only an impact on ideas it also generated huge political consequences. In Northern Europe, the Eighty Years’ war dismantled in two parts the low countries: Spanish ruled catholic in the south, independent Protestant United Provinces in the north.

1585 is a strategic date in the Eighty Years’ War as for Northern schools. The 17th of August of that year, Antwerp which was the head of the Protestant revolt surrendered to Habsburg Spanish forces. All Protestants had four years to leave the city, lots of them migrate in the north, more specifically in Amsterdam which became the capital of the Dutch Republic (United Provinces).

So 1585 is the milestone for the end of the Antwerp economic prominence in Northern Europe in favor of Amsterdam and then the early beginning of the Dutch Golden Age.

Nevertheless, 1585 is far to be the end of arts in Antwerp but on the contrary, may be considered as the beginning of Flemish Baroque there.

The canvas ” Otto van Veen, Painting Surrounded by His Familly” by Otto van Veen (Otho Venius) is a good illustration of this turning point, by its date of realization, 1584, but also by the personality of its author.

Indeed, successor of the Flemish painting tradition via his master Dominique Lampson (painter, humanist, and first Flemish art historian), Van Veen was mainly a mannerist painter but also later on, a Baroque precursor with his pupil Rubens.

Flemish Baroque Painting: The Age of Rubens

Jan Brueghel the Elder (Velvet Brueghel), the most famous son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder is considered as the creator or at least the most talented artist of flower still lifes. Jan Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens were good friends and following the Flemish tradition were cooperating in some works as in the “Madonna in Floral Wreath“, a touching Louvre masterpiece in which the central medallion is by Rubens and the Flower by Brueghel.

As the Louvre owns a large number of Rubens, we will obviously cross others on our tour route and may see depending on our tour rhythm for example the famous Marie de‘ Medici Cycle (24 paintings created by the Flemish baroque master for the Luxembourg Palace in Paris south bank) or a much more intimate portrait of Rubens second wife Helena Fourment.

Rubens is not only famous for himself but also for his pupils as for example Anthony van Dyck who was also Rubens’ assistant before becoming the leading court painter in England. This Flemish Baroque artist may clearly be considered the founder of the English School. On our tour route is planned a famous van Dick English period full-length portrait «Charles I at the Hunt».

Photo of the Marie de Medicis Rubens gallery to illustrate the Flemish and Dutch painting Louvre tour.

Louvre visitor watching the painting of Marie de Medici’s Cycle by Peter Paul Rubens. The 24 paintings of the cycle were initially in the Luxembourg Palace in Paris left bank. Credit Pixabay

Dutch Golden Age

The united provinces rapidly became the first economic power in the 17th century, a period of extremely rich art creation. An art that inherited the detail and realism of the early Netherlandish painters avoiding the baroque idealization and obviously any Catholic Reformation influence.

Diversity was another main characteristic of the 17th-century Dutch painting.

The maritime paintings are great witnesses of the 17th century Dutch Empire as « The Return of the Fleet of the Dutch East India Company » from Ludolf Backhuysen who became the most important Dutch painter of the field after Willem van de Velde the Elder and Younger left for England in 1672. The Louvre also shows two maritime paintings by van de Veld the younger.

Foreign lands painting as the Brazilian landscapes by Frans Post does not only witness the Dutch Empire but also of its industry with sugar refinery depiction. These Frans Post works are some of the very first representations of South America.

Proud depiction of industrial innovations may also be hidden in Dutch countryside landscapes as in « The Watermill » which is despite its rustic appearance showing an innovative water-powered sawmill. The painting is by Meindert Hobbema one of the most famous landscape painters of the time beside for sure Van Ruisdael.

The wealth of the Dutch Republic can also be depicted in cityscapes painting as in the « Herengracht in Amsterdam» by Jan van der Heyden where we can see the impressive houses (veritable urban palaces) along the canal.

Some Dutch perspective painters where more specialized in church’s interios as Emmannuel de Witte or  Cornelisz Van Vliet.

Still life painting  (stilleven) is a Dutch inovation (arround 1620) in which time suspention and mimestism maximisation of reality are the keys of reading before any symbolic interpretation. If the Dutch followed the Flemish Flower painting tradition (Ambrosius Bosschaert and his brother in Law Balthasar van der Ast) the breakfast pieces (composontbijt) of Claeszoon Heda (“A Dessert”) or Pieter Claesz (“Still Life with Musical Instruments“)  were also very popular. Two Willem Kalf, an other reference painter of the category are also shown in the Louvre.

Portrait is another important field of 17th century Dutch painting, Frans Hals being indisputably its most brilliant master with his strong brushstrokes which were admired by many 19th century innovative painters as Courbet, Monet or Van Gogh ; « The Lute Player» is probably is most famous Louvre painting.

The Louvre also owns some masterpieces from the two most famous Dutch Golden Age painters :
Rembrandt: among many other works of the Dutch chiaroscuro master two of his world’s most famous masterpieces are part of the Louvre collection « Bathsheba at Her Bath » and « The Supper at Emmaus».

Johannes Vermeer: no more than 35 works have been attributed to the mysterious Delft painter, two are in the Louvre: « the Astronomer » and «The Lacemaker». ”

This unforgettable masterpieces are planned on our tour route.

Photo of the painting "Toilet of Bathsheba" by Rembrand to illustrate the Flemish and Dutch Louvre tour.

“Bathsheba at Her Bath” is a recurring theme of the tour. We will then be able to see the evolution of the theme from Jan Metsys to Rembrandt and then to the version of Willem Drost (a Rembrand pupil) also presented at the Louvre. Last we will also see how Rembrandt himself changed his approach of the theme from its MET version (1643) to the Louvre one (1654). Credit photo MET New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Things to know before Booking

Louvre Tickets, Museum Pass & Skip-the-line Clarifications

A Skip-the-line ticket is just a standard online one. You line for health and security and skip the purchasing line on site ... like nearly everyone else. Louvre website says "All visitors, including those entitled to free admission, must book a time slot. Buy your ticket online on www.ticketlouvre.fr. During off-peak times, there may also be a limited number of time slots for same-day visits available for booking at the museum. However ... to guarantee your entry ... we strongly advise booking your time slot in advance online."

"Licenced guides easier access": Since COVID this entry is now reserved for groups of more than 6 people. Officialy, no more priviledge there for tiny private tours.   

Free admission (with online ticket mandatory): Children up to 18 y/o, European ... up to 26 y/o and some other specific situations. Paris Museum Pass: Available on the Pass website, includes the right to reserve a timed ticket on the Louvre website for free.

Attention Points

  • Tour on foot in Louvre's hudge galeries so good health & comfortable shoes are mandatory.
  • Louvre rooms closing without notice may (rarely) happend, so you will be asked during booking to choose a substitution thematique tour in case. 

Restrictions

  • Private tour means a tour for you & your party only, not that the museum is privatized.
  • Tour duration & content are purely indicative, they may vary due to contingencies.
  • Prices do not include transportation, food, drinks or any other extra services.
  • Museum tickets are not included in the price.

Meeting Point

Easy one Inside the museum (detail during booking)

Access: Metro line 1 station Palais-Royal

Book your Louvre Private Tour

Just request the date, time, number of people you want for your Louvre tour in our calendar  and follow the below 4 steps online easy process.   

(1) Receive our OK email (free reservation valid 48 hours)

(2) Buy your Louvre tickets on line (compatible schedule)

(3) Once you have your ticket pay your tour on line

(4) Receive our
confirmation (email)

Nota bene : Step (1) free reservation is lost if no step (3) payment received after 48h. Buy your ticket on Louvre official web site. Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Open hours:  9 am - 6 pm. Any exit is final.