Jan Janssens, The Annunciation, MSK, Ghent.

IDEOLOGY: Church and Counter-Reformation

The rise of Protestantism since the beginning of the 16th Century ensures for intense conflicts that lead to the Iconoclasm of 1566 and the fall of Antwerp in 1585. The Northern and Southern Netherlands at that moment no longer form a unified front. Many Calvinists leave the Southern Netherlands, which are under Catholic Spanish rule.

After the Reformation movement from the Protestant corner the Counter-Reformation of the Roman Catholics follows as an answer. The Schelde in Antwerp is also already closed, though the economic life revives itself under the well-intended leadership of the Spanish-Habsburg Archduke Albrecht (1559-1621) and Archduchess Isabella (1566-1633) and the cease-fire of the Twelve Year Treaty (1609-1621).

As an answer to the Reformation's tendencies and in imitation of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), new cloister orders, such as the Jesuits, are established or restored to honour. New churches and cloisters were built in the Southern Netherlands. In order to give this new élan power, many works of art are ordered that satisfy the guidelines of the Counter-Reformation. Often it deals with subjects that are denounced by the Protestant dogma, such as, for example, the revering of Mary, the Holy Family, Saints and the doctrine of the Sacraments. One of the central values of the Counter-Reformation is the family.

Matthias Depoorter