Today being a public holiday, I successfully persuaded the family to go for a trip to the lower Ardennes, specifically to the château at Modave, the far side of Huy, just where the landscape starts to get interesting. My reason for this goes back to the summer, when I was wowed by the stucco ceilings inside the Park Abbey near Leuven, created by the 17th century artist Jan-Christian Hansche. There are a couple of castles in the Brussels area which also have some of his work (Beaulieu near Machelen and Horst on the other side of Leuven) but neither is open to the public. Modave, however, is.
I was not disappointed. Hansche’s ceilings there are spectacular. The entrance hall features a family tree of the original owner, with mounted knights leaning down out of history and into our space.
These are the only Hansche stuccos that I have seen that were painted.
A neighbouring suite has the theme of the Labours of Hercules – see below the taming of the man-eating mares of Diomedes, the slaying of the nine-headed Hydra and (less distinctly as I could not get a clear shot) the cattle dispute with the three-headed Geryon.
Inset into the walls are some more stuccos, a bit more rounded due to gravity providing a lesser challenge.
Upstairs is another suite where the ceilings have a more military theme – I got only two good pics, but I am very pleased with the cannon pointing out of the ceiling.
I really don’t know of any other artist who did three-dimensional ceiling work like this, from any period of history. So I will set myself a mini-project of finding all of his surviving work. The castles of Beaulieu and Horst do open sometimes, and there are other pieces in places like Ghent.
Modave has other art too, including these lovely panels:
Some striking tapestries:
And grand mural scenes of Rome:
The light was such that I needed an Instagram filter for the view of the front of the castle:
And U was dubious about a sunlit selfie:
Apart from that, she seemed to enjoy it, as did the others.